Sitting around a campfire telling stories has a kind of primal appeal and can also be just plain fun to do. But there’s an air of desperation surrounding the campers in “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play,” the latest offering from the Mad Horse Theatre Company.

The 2012 creation of playwright Anne Washburn situates its characters in an apocalyptic world where the power is out and nuclear reactors are spewing deadly radiation into large sections of the country.

To fend off the fearful darkness, a group of survivors has taken to trying to remember, in detail, episodes of “The Simpsons.” In particular, an episode called “Cape Feare” seems to speak to them with its combination of plot lines from several old movies about families menaced by evil men.

The play jumps ahead seven years in its second act and the campfire band has become a theatre troupe, performing “Simpsons” stories in a tenuous society in which story lines and plots have become a sort of currency. They soldier on, though still haunted by the past.

Act III flashes forward another 75 years. The audience meets a new generation, performing a whacked-out musical theater production that could serve as a mythical foundation for the future.

“Mr. Burns” is a big chunk of play, even for the intrepid Mad Horse folks to take on. It spins from light comedy to serious drama and back again and calls for some elaborate costuming as well as rousing song and dance numbers.

Director Reba Short has assembled a cast of company members who, along with a few guests and a heavily called-upon creative staff, have combined to effectively make this production into the sort of show that has you laughing while simultaneously sending shivers up your spine. It may go over the top at times, but so has the world it visits.

Mad Horse regular Brent Askari has a central role as a late arrival to the encampment who brings feelings of both hope and doom to the group. His emotional breakdown during the second act is a dramatic highpoint.

Allison McCall also has a strong moment as her character describes an encounter with a man hoping to save some lives. Corey Gagne gets to roar with gusto as the malevolent title character.

Jake Cote, Marie Stewart Harmon, Shannon Campbell and Christine Marshall also contribute as members of the troupe united around a bizarrely formulated but perhaps also very human idea.

Brittany Cook and Lex Jones add musical accompaniment for a play about a fractured future which, alas, may speak to today.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.