The Studio Theatre in Washington, DC is staging the U.S. premier of British playwright Sam Holcroft’s “Edgar & Annabel.” (The play has been revised by the playwright and the director, Holly Twyford, to reflect a U.S., rather than a U.K. setting.) It takes place in the future when the country faces an increasingly repressive government and the opposition takes the form of both a political party and an underground movement under the control of the party that prepares for violent resistance if that becomes necessary. (Sort of like the former relationship of Sinn Fein to the Irish Republican Army.)
Edgar and Annabel are the names given to a fictitious married couple who supposedly live in a safe hourse. Different underground members take on the roles of these two characters. The house–like most places, it seems, in this dystopia– is bugged. But the opposition needs some place to store bomb making materials and so they have come up with this cover. Those depicting the couple read from scripts written by their ultra-tough handler, Miller (played exceptionally well by Lisa Hodsoll).
The play mostly takes place in the safe house itself, specifically in its conventional kitchen and adjacent dining area. The intriguing situation has many possibilities but the plot as it actually works out is a bit on the thin side. Another weakness is an overlong karaoke scene midway through the play. At this point, the repression has become so great that the order has been given to set off bombs, so the current Edgar and Annabel, Nick (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), an explosives expert, and Marianne (Emily Kester) and another couple, Tara (Lauren E. Banks) and Marc (Jacob Yeh) prepare the explosives while doing karaoke to mask the sounds. It is meant to be comical but goes on far too long and becomes, to me at any rate, boring. (Admittedly, karaoke is not my preferred form of buffoonery.)
The play’s most interesting theme, I think, is the leading of a double life. It seems to me more could have been done in this vein, but even just pruning the karaoke scene would be a major improvement.