Directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free.” Kris Kristofferson, “Me and Bobby Mcgee”
Under the guise of a grippingly gory vampire story, Joseph Wilde’s “Cuddles” exposes more than throbbing veins. His sharp and witty (actually, it is) tale of two sisters living a symbiotic life in the elder’s home exposes the throbbing and broken hearts of two women whose co-existence has bordered more on mutual control than mutual love and just might be no longer necessary for survival. How can the younger exist without the supply of the elder’s blood? Therein lies the wonderful conflict between two well developed and – oddly – easily accessible characters. “Cuddles” is part of the very smart Brtis Off Broadway Festival currently running at 59E59 Theaters.
What happens when Tabby (the witch?) meets Eve (the mother of all humankind?) is not unlike when any two humans conspire to stay together after history or chance or necessity tosses them together. And that is the brilliance and the challenge of Mr. Wilde’s well-crafted play. For reasons which are disclosed ever so subtly throughout the play, Tabby (Rendah Heywood) has sacrificed much of her life to “care for” her younger sister Eve (Carla Langley). This caregiving includes sometimes chaining Eve to her attic bed and – when jam sandwiches seem not to sate Eve – allowing Eve to satisfy her vampire hunger for blood with a fix of blood from Tabby’s veins. When this relationship becomes too stressful, one or the other of the sisters utters “cuddles” and a hug (of varying degrees) follows.
But hugs are not enough for this star-crossed pair and one (Eve) fears the other will one day not return home from work and the other (Tabby) is beginning to feel more trapped than her sister. She meets someone and would like to develop a relationship that does not include the loss of blood (sometimes more than she bargains for). Eventually Tabby needs to disclose the secret she has kept since Eve’s untimely birth, the secret that cannot be disclosed here.
Carla Langley is absolutely brilliant at the vampire sister Eve. Ms. Langley gives Eve the cunning charm of the First Woman who, though tempted, knows how to seduce others into her Fall. And Rendah Heywood counterpoints Ms. Langley’s performance with explosive witch-full antics. Her Tabby is at the same time wounded and warrior. Rebecca Atkinson-Lord’s meticulous direction moves the performance in brilliant twists and turns that expose layer after delicious layer of Joseph Wilde’s stunning script.
Tabby vows never to leave Eve but Eve keeps a few things under her bed just in case Tabby gets a case of wanderlust. Prepare to be surprised. There is no vampire tale quite like “Cuddles” and all lovers of the Gothic should see it before it dissembles on June 28.