The new play “FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers” plays like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, only every word is true and it’s actually funny.
Detailing the conspiracy to overthrow President Trump by FBI-employed lovers, Phelim McAleer’s play premiered in Washington, DC to incredible success. The verbatim play had some difficulties securing a venue, as the previous theater dropped out at the last minute, but nothing was going to keep this play from reaching its audience. And that audience was thrilled that it did. “FBI Lovebirds” is a hilarious play with a strong cast, great script, and a perfect story.
Using entirely the texts between Strzok and Page and their congressional hearing testimonies, the play tells the full story of the affair, attempted coup, and failed cover-up. While backlogs of texts and transcripts of testimony may sound dull, that idea could not be further from the truth. The script was absolutely hysterical.
McAleer chose to focus on the texts of a political or sexual nature, and he selected the perfect messages. The messages, interspersed with testimony, told the story of two people with power who, when the election began taking a turn they disliked, decided to take matters into their own hands.
There is an inherent childishness to Strzok and Page’s correspondence, highlighted by Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson’s performances. They text like a teenage couple, and their congressional testimony had the air of children called into the principal’s office, trying to talk their way out of trouble. This immaturity and seeming lack of intelligence only serves to highlight the inherent ridiculousness of these two individuals believing they had the right to override a fair election and usurp a democratically elected president.
Director Richard Kuhlman made the bold choice to have the actors read aloud the emojis and nontraditional punctuations of the texts. The opening text exchange saw Strzok and Page exchanging “winky faces” at the end of their messages, each of which was given special emphasis by Cain and Swanson for comedic effect. The staging is simple, with the actors moving between six chairs and around the stage to display passing of time. The minimal staging allows the words and performances to take center stage.
Cain and Swanson were brilliant as the eponymous agents and lovers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Cain played Strzok as an overly confident, pompous man-child whose neuroticism cannot belie the fact that he believes he is the smartest man in the room. Cain’s natural charisma shines through the ridiculous words of the philandering FBI Agent. Cain injected every utterance of “winky face” and “five exclamation points” with meaning and humor, leaving the audience in stitches.
Swanson portrayed Page with the catty childishness of a high school mean girl. She maintained an above-it-all arrogance of someone who believes her opinions are unimpeachable and she should have the ultimate say in American politics. Cain and Swanson’s natural chemistry shines through, built through working together on multiple films, and this ease delights audiences and adds a realism to their relationship.
“FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers” will be available online in the near future. All who did not attend the production should rush to watch the video the moment it is released. I do not need to share this advice to anyone who saw the play, as everyone in the theater on June 13 likely already plans to re-experience the hilarious play again.