Edgar & Annabel at Ion Theatre
  • Edgar & Annabel at Ion Theatre
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Edgar & Annabel and Far Away

Edgar and Annabel are “the perfect couple.” They’re economically viable, eat healthy foods, and never utter a discouraging word about the government, which also makes them perfect citizens in a hard-core totalitarian state.

Trouble is: Edgar and Annabel aren’t real. They’re characters in a real life (and death) soap opera. What makes them such a perfect couple, a leader of the rebellion says: “They don’t question their choices. They just choose them.”

The government’s more paranoid than any citizen. It triple-bugs every home. Batteries of experts — on relationships, speech rhythms, personal habits — inspect every word for even a soupçon of subversion.

So many people have “disappeared,” it’s a wonder there’s anyone left.

At the beginning of Sam Holcroft’s fascinating comi-tragedy, Nick and Marianne play the title characters. They are rebels and the house is a sleeper cell. As they read from scripts — chipper, model citizen stuff like — “honey, I’m home” — they plot to win an upcoming election for the Opposition Party. Their words go one way, their hands another.

But what happens if someone flubs a line, or says “salmon” when the script says “chicken”? Or, after much squabbling (when Edgar and Anabel are supposed to be blissful), when a glimmer of love sparks between Nick and Marianne and he wants to go off script?

Enter another wrinkle: Miller writes the scripts and seems to be in charge, but why trust her? The audience is privy to behind the scenes disappearances on both sides. And who knows who’s doing the erasing.

Edgar & Annabel might not be original, but it’s hard to recall anything like it, since what you see and what you hear are exact opposites. The double-focus culminates in a party at once hilarious and scary: two couples sip wine and sing karaoke while they prime pipe-bombs for a terrorist attack.

Even the songs cut two ways. When Jake Rosko and Samantha Ginn (with a riotous voice like a baritone frog) sing Gracie Slick and Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” they give new meaning to “let the world around us fall apart” and “if this world runs out of lovers.” The irony’s so thick you couldn’t cut it with a dirty bomb.

Ion’s media opening had ups and downs. The younger actors tended to race their lines, early, and the pacing could have been crisper in spots — but then again, singing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” while preparing to overthrow the government might need a few performances for the cast to settle in.

Linda Libby, Craig Noel Actor of the Year for 2013, makes her directorial debut at Ion and IT’S ABOUT TIME (there’s a local trend here: veteran local actors taking the helm for the first time; Bernard Baldan, who should have been doing it for years, is directing 13 the Musical at the Lyceum starting March 28). The occasional gaffes aside, Libby’s obviously got the directorial goods, even with a script that, for an actor, is the theatrical equivalent of schizophrenia.

Ion Theatre has paired Edgar & Annabel with Caryl Churchill’s cosmically freaky Far Away, which Libby also directed.

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