stage managed by Katie Klemme* scenic design by Joe Schermoly lighting design by Heather Gilbert costume design by Mara Blumenfeld and Mieka van der Ploeg property design by Jonathan Berg-Einhorn sound design by Christopher Kriz violence design by David Woolley, Jon Beal and Kai Young
A post-electric play about Bart Simpson Kills in Chicago
"The best work of director Jeremy Wechsler's career."
"Washburn's script has a very distinct kind of thrill, the one that kicks in when you have absolutely no idea where a play is going, except that it is not likely to be any place you recall being before in a theater.
"This thrill is one of expansiveness of vision — an intellectual rush, a sense of unexplored theatrical possibility, a fearlessness of operation, an understanding of the complex relationship of cultural innovation and populist pulp. Oh, and one more thing: the massive pull of shared experience.
"But wherever you land on the "Simpsons" obsession scale, you should know that "Mr. Burns" is very funny. And that's most of what you need to know."
★★★½ “Mr. Burns” sweeps you into its weirdly funny, dystopian world.
Wechsler’s ensemble maintains energy throughout the show’s wild ride. As Quincy/Bart, Leslie Ann Sheppard brings the gravity of Odysseus into the petulant bombast of the yellow-haired cartoon child. Bart’s an unlikely charismatic leader, but Sheppard makes him heroic, somehow without dimming his obnoxiousness.
As Sam/Mr. Burns, Andrew Jessop leans into the latter with the ferocity of a chainsaw on blast. He chews the scenery to sawdust. Then, he eats the sawdust. That’s not a read: The more preposterously monstrous Mr. Burns becomes, the more he sucks you into his wickedly charismatic orbit.
And keep an eye on Wil Wilhelm as Jenny/Marge/Mrs. Krabapel. Costumed like a battered, underwater Statue of Liberty, they are the humming coil that runs the length of the third act, sending out vocals that prove “falsetto belt” is not an necessarily an oxymoron.
In the end, “Mr. Burns” is both a story of creation and destruction. Love may win, as the angel chorus tells us, but hate leaves scars. It’s a brutal, compelling message.
A dizzyingly smart contraption, and Wechsler’s direction and stellar ensemble keep it all on point, balancing the poignant with the ridiculous, the quotidian with the existential.
No matter how well you feel you’ve managed the dread (and anger, and confusion) of this time, Mr. Burns offers both wry smart laughs and a sense that finding our tribe with a common narrative is one way through the darkness.
Both extremely entertaining and illuminating, you'll find it hard to leave the theatre without buzzing with electricity.
The script is certainly a true work of art and it's clear that Wechsler and the team at Theater Wit recognize the worth of this play and are giving it everything they have.
With a top-notch set (that, really, is three different set designs in one show) by Joe Schermoly (along with Jesse Gaffney on props), lit with precision and skill by Mike Durst, and characters clad in often brilliantly creative costumes by Mara Blumenfeld, the physical look of the show is one of the most stunning and impressive I have ever seen in Chicago storefront theatre.
The cast is uniformly strong. The balance found between all of the actors in this ensemble piece is spot on, and it is a joy to watch.
The choreography couldn't be funnier or more effective.
Though the script is chock-full of intellectual stimulation, Theatre Wit's production of "Mr. Burns" is also, quite simply, really damn entertaining. It's funny, it's witty, it's interesting, and those three acts fly by.
"Under the deliberate yet freewheeling direction of Jeremy Wechsler, Theater Wit’s production of Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play is, my apologies in advance, simply electrifying. The cast is stellar, managing to rev up from realistic drama to full-blown opera over the course of the play’s three acts. The production design likewise starts with utter simplicity, some trees and effective campfire lighting, and eventually explodes in full, orgiastic spectacle. The play itself is unlike anything else in town, and Wechsler’s production is as good as this town has to offer."
"Each act opens on a different time and place, and things just get weirder each time the curtain rises. And by weird, I mean wonderful. I’m not going to spoil the story for you, but let it be known that the third act has to be seen to be believed."
"Seriously, this show has it all, and it’s using all of the tools of modern theatre to do it – not big technical splashes, but clever designs, good acting, the right mixture of stillness and explosions. Go have your mind blown with some damn fine theatre."
Recent Chicago credits include Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, Miss Neo Pageant (Neo-futurists); Burning Bluebeard (The Ruffians); 500 Clown Trapped, 500 Clown Frankenstein, 500 Clown Macbeth (500 Clown); Moby Dick, Dustbowl Gothic (The Building Stage); Hunchback (Redmoon). Choreography and movement direction credits include The Magic Play (Goodman), Lord of The Flies (Steppenwolf), Ivywild (Hypocrites), Miss Neo Pageant (Neo-futurists), and Burning Bluebeard (Ruffians, Neo-futurists). Leah is a proud ensemble member of the Chicago Neo-futurists, New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat, and a founding member of The Ruffians. She is a graduate of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, and is represented by Stewart Talent.
Kelley Abell is thrilled to be making her Theater Wit debut with Mr. Burns. Her Chicago credits include: Titanic with Griffin Theatre, Dorian with The House Theatre, Fiddler on the Roof and 42nd Street at The Paramount Theatre, Peter Pan: A Play at Lookingglass. She has worked with The Marriott Theatre, Next Theatre, and Haven Theatre. Kelley is a proud graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied Theatre and English.
Matt / Homer / Scratchy
Daniel Desmarais is making his Theater Wit debut. Some of his Chicago credits include: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Jeff Nomination), Flare Path, The Stinky Cheese Man (Griffin Theatre Company), Pains of Youth (Odradek), Hit The Wall (The Inconvenience and Chicago Commercial Collective), Do I Hear a Waltz? (The Music Theatre Company), Alice in Wonderland (Emerald City), The Diary of Anne Frank (Metropolis), and POWERLESS (a comic book superhero play that was performed in a loft space above a Family Dollar). He has worked with Victory Gardens, Oracle, Goodman, and Pine Box Theatre Company. He was an Acting Apprentice at Actors Theatre of Louisville and Williamstown Theatre Festival. He’s a graduate of UC Berkeley where he studied Geography. Other well known geography majors: Michael Jordan. So he thinks he’s on the right track.
Colleen / 1st FBI Agent / Lisa
Some of Hannah's Chicago credits include: Gaby in 16th Street Theater’s Pinkolandia (in collaboration with New York’s Lark Play Development Center), Maribel in Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s Crooked (Equity Jeff Nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role), Cha-Cha in American Theater Co.’s The Original Grease (Equity Jeff Award for Outstanding Musical), and others. She’s an alumnus of Illinois State University, iO, and a native Texan, y’all.
Maria / 2nd FBI Agent / Itchy
Christina is making her Theater Wit debut. Other Chicago credits include Ask Aunt Susan (U/S), and Women Laughing Alone With Salad – Staged Reading (Goodman Theater); Always, Patsy Cline, and Pump Boys and Dinettes (Theo Ubique); The Wild Party (Bailiwick Chicago); Terminus, and Hot N’ Throbbing - “TimeOut Chicago” Performer of the Week (Interrobang Theatre Project); Improbable Frequency (Strawdog Theatre Company); Fade Out, Fade In (Porchlight Music Theatre); The Sweet Smell of Success, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Kokandy Productions); Hello Again, and The Merchant of Venice (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble); The Taming of the Shrew, and As You Like It (Muse of Fire). Christina is an Artistic Associate with Interrobang Theatre Project and Muse of Fire, and holds her B.F.A. in Acting from Southern Methodist University. Following Mr. Burns, you can see her in the new super hero musical Soon I Will Be Invincible with Lifeline Theatre Ensemble.
Sam / Mr. Burns
Andrew Jessop is returning to Theater Wit after last performing as Don/Franklin in Completeness. Recent credits include performing in The Sun King (Elements Contemporary Ballet), Set Design for Urinetown (Awkward Pause Theatre), and Direction for Man from Nebraska (Redtwist Theatre) which received the Jeff Award for Best Production. As an actor, notable credits include Elling, Lobby Hero, and The Pillowman (Redtwist Theatre), Uncle Sam (Actors Theatre of Louisville), and Brave No World (Kennedy Center). You can find more about Andrew’s work on his website.
Leslie Ann Sheppard
Quincy / Bart
Leslie Ann Sheppard is excited to join Team Burns! Chicago Theatre Credits: Northlight Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Classical Kids Live!, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Victory Gardens Biograph, TimeLine Theatre. Regional Credits: Theatre Squared (Fayettville, AR), Illinois Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago Fringe Festival, Bristol Renaissance Faire (Kenosha, WI). International Credits: Classical Kids Live! (Singapore). TV/Film: THE MOB DOCTOR (Fox/FX), POWERS (Pilot ep.) She’s also a musician, playwright and stage combatant, with a BA degree from Illinois State University and is the Artistic Director and a founding company member of the Suitcase Shakespeare Co.
Gibson / Sideshow Bob / Homer
Jeff is the co-creator (along with Lacy Katherine Campbell) of Gashlycrumb Orphanage and they recently performed in the Chicago Humanities Festival. Other acting credits include 12 Nights, Seven Sicknesses (The Hypocrites), That’s Weird Grandma (Barrel of Monkeys), The Electric Baby (Rivendell Theatre), South of Settling (Steppenwolf Theatre Company), Roadkill Confidential (Dog & Pony Theatre Company), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Writers’ Theatre), Red Noses (Strawdog Theatre Company), The Magnificents (The House Theatre), Helen (Vintage Theater Collective), The Madame Barker Cabaret (Prop Theater/Strawdog Theatre Company), As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida, and Cymbeline (Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Television credit: Mind Games. Jeff is a company member of Barrel of Monkeys and he is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.
See the trailer from our 2015 hit production
written by Anne Washburn
music by Michael Friedman
directed by Jeremy Wechsler
musical direction by Eugene Dizon
choreography by Brigitte Ditmars
★★★½ Inspired! As sublime as it is absurdChicago Sun Times
★★★½ A significant narrative and emotional achievement! Chicago Tribune
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED A dizzingly smart contraption, and Wechsler's direction and stellar ensemble keep it all on pointChicago Reader
A post-apocalyptic tale of survival... passion... and the enduring power of Bart Simpson.
After life as we know it has ended, small bands of survivors band together to keep the pilot light of civilization burning. Their path to redemption is as unexpected as it is inevitable in the most original, vibrant and stunning piece of theater you'll see this year.
This unique and prescient theatrical experience is one of the most popular shows in Theater Wit's history. Don't miss it!