The first thing I noticed about “Edgar and Annabel,” was the set. It’s a single room, a simple kitchen, built into a huge space. It somehow feels intimate despite the emptiness that surrounds you. Going into this play I incorrectly assumed it was somehow based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. I was way off the mark. You are immediately thrown into a high tension situation between Edgar and Annabel who are double agents in this Big Brother is Watching dystopian society in which they live.
Originally penned by British playwright Sam Holcroft, “Edgar and Annabel,” couldn’t more accurately describe the undercurrent of fear we possess today when it comes to the potential dirty deeds of our government. I expected Edward Snowden to burst onto the stage at any moment.
The play opens up with Annabel making dinner in a bizarrely 50’s fashion. She’s actually wearing an apron and heels while doing this. The kitchen door opens and Edgar walks in to the tune of “Hi honey I’m home!” She turns with a smile on her face, which drops quickly as she raises the knife she was using in a threatening manner. Edgar quickly walks over with two scripts in his hands. They begin reading from them in a delightfully robotic fashion.
We learn that “Edgar” and “Annabel” are aliases for Nick and Marianne (played by Maboud Ebrahimzadeh and Emily Kester respectively). Paranoia is ripe throughout this play as Edgar and Annabel are puppets for an unnamed political organization hellbent on righting the wrongs of this dystopian society. At one point it is mentioned that milk is now $7.95/gallon. Is that the organic milk?
The fear is very real in the form of several furtive glances towards the ceiling which is bugged by both sides and the need to stay on script constantly. The scene changes are indicated by darkening of the houselights, pulsating music, news reports and a sense of chaos that is juxtaposed against the sterility of their constantly-watched lives.
Things unravel quickly and come to a head when the leader of their political organization is captured. The play hits home in several ways as we are reminded of the NSA monitoring all of our communications (if you guys are reading this please stay off my cell phone anytime after 2 a.m. on the weekends) and the government’s increasing involvement in our lives.
If this sounds too serious for your liking fear not. It is peppered with several hilarious moments including a scene in which Edgar and Annabel, along with another faux undercover couple, are performing several karaoke songs to mask the sounds of the assembly of an explosive device. My favorite song choice was this:
If you pay attention to the selections they actually serve to narrate what is happening during this scene as well as the growing relationship between Edgar and Annabel. I was drawn in by the actors, flinching at times, nearly crying at others. It was almost addicting to watch, especially given the difficulty of creating such drama in one room.
This is the U.S. premiere of “Edgar and Annabel,” which is part of the Studio Theatre’s “The New British Invasion,” which will include two more plays by British playwrights. I’m looking forward to what else is coming down the pipeline. And I’ve started checking my lights to make sure they haven’t been bugged. Does the government know how often I watch Back to the Future?
“Edgar & Annabel,” by Sam Holcroft, directed by Holly Twyford, is at The Studio Theatre now through January 5th. Tickets are $15-$35. Sounds like an excellent Christmas gift to me.