When a cataclysmic event shuts down the world’s electricity, plunging it into darkness and ushering in an apocalypse, survivors have only one place to turn: “The Simpsons.”
At least that’s how it works out in the production “Mr. Burns: a Post-Electric Play,” Nov. 9 to Dec. 2 at Cal State Fullerton’s Clayes Performing Arts Center.
The play, written by Anne Washburn, features a tribe of survivors as they try to piece society back together amid the ashes of the old world with the help of popular culture. The play, which won the Drama League Award in 2014, spans more than a century.
To reconstruct the way things were, the group latches onto “The Simpsons,” in particular an Emmy-nominated episode called “Cape Feare.” They form a theater troupe and decide to reenact the show.
But they have some competition. As the years go by, a host of other theater groups rise to provide entertainment for the survivors, each group with its own take on some form of popular culture from the pre-apocalyptic eras. One group enacts the work of William Shakespeare. Another takes on the bloated dialogue of “The West Wing.”
None seem to be as popular as “The Simpsons.”
Director Kyle Cooper said the success of “The Simpsons” troupe exemplifies how humor is a valuable tool during dark times: “Why go with drama when everyone around you is dead?”
The play is the last Cooper will direct before he completes his master’s degree at Fullerton in May. Cooper earned his bachelor’s degree in acting from Chapman University in 2011 and went on to work as a screenwriter. He co-wrote the 2016 feature film “The Late Bloomer.”
Cooper was drawn to the play because of its dark humor and deep themes.
“The biggest theme is survival,” Cooper said. “How humans solve their biggest problems through mythology. Also how people in crisis essentially have two choices: either dwell in the muck of it all or accelerate through the chaos.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Mr. Burns: a Post-Electric Play”
Where: Clayes Performing Arts Center’s Young Theatre at Cal State Fullerton, 800 North State College Blvd., Fullerton
When: Nov. 9 to Dec. 2
Cost: $12 to $14