POST: 'Cuddles' ...the disturbing sisterly dynamic of Eve and Tabby

Photo by Alex Beckett

Photo by Alex Beckett

I take my front row seat at 59E59 Theaters' Cuddles and am instantly uncomfortable.

There's no stage, so I'm on the same level as the set, bordering a filthy child's bedroom strewn with ripped newspaper and books (I recognize one of the Twilight books amongst the collection). When it comes to furniture, there are only two bins (one red and one green), a twin bed, and a pink Fisher Price table and chair. Under the bed lies a young girl, grimy with matted and unwashed hair, clad in an over-sized T-shirt and underwear. 

There is something unnerving about the way she stares out at the audience, even meeting my eyes on more than one occasion, smiling to herself creepily and licking her lips periodically. For ten excruciatingly long minutes the theater is eerily silent as people file in to take their seats, this young girl beneath the bed the entire time.  

Only moments after everyone has been seated, the lights suddenly go out. 

This is when I get scared. I can't even make out a shape in front of me; it's all blackness. I hear the rustling of somebody moving and I know that it must be the girl. What is she doing? Where is she? She could be anywhere, could be doing anything.

She turns on a flashlight, pointed right under her chin, and in a British accent tells a sort of bizarre fairy tale. (video tells the tale)

I'm not quite sure if the girl really believes this story, but it seems like she very much wants it to be true. Perhaps it makes her feel better to pretend that she is the product of a wish her loving sister made many years ago. 

Then comes the disturbing sisterly dynamic of Eve and Tabby. 

Eve is the girl who was hiding under her bed at the start of the show, and she looks like she's led a rather trying life. For one thing, she appears to have never had a bath, and for a 13 year old girl, she seems exceptionally sheltered and desperate for affection.

When Tabby walks into Eve's room, looking like she's due on a red carpet somewhere in a designer corporate outfit and heels, Eve enthusiastically leaps up and demands "cuddles" from her sister. Tabby deliberates momentarily, before agreeing to "level five cuddles," which Eve all too happily initiates, squeezing her sister as though she could never hold her for long enough. Eve also refers to her genitals as her "bad bits," and is very sexually confused and repressed, humping everything from table legs to her sister's foot because "it feels good." 

It becomes clear to me that Tabby has all the power in this undoubtedly abusive relationship. Eve, who happens to be a vampire, has never left her bedroom. Everything she knows about the world is based on what Tabby has told her. And Tabby's instruction has left Eve paranoid and entirely dependent on her. There are a series of rules that Eve must follow under threat of cruel and unusual punishment (being duct taped and chained to her bed). These rules include, but are not limited to:

Do not trust humans, except for Tabby, and especially not boys
Never leave the safe place 
Do not bite the neck

At one point, Tabby's cell phone rings from inside her pocket book, and Eve, having never heard such a sound before, leaps up to find out where the mysterious noise is coming from. Tabby, panicked, tells Eve that her ring tone is merely a bird, a Phoenix, to be exact, and the ever trusting Eve takes her word for it. 

Despite Eve's seemingly dreary day-to-day life, she is comforted by her routine, which includes feeding on her sister's blood just enough to keep her hunger at bay. But one day Tabby has had enough, and tells Eve that she will have to make due with only human food and water like a regular teenage girl. Eve doesn't exactly take well to this news.

In a massive jar collection under her bed, Eve has stored bloody tampons from every one of her periods so far, and feeds on them out of desperation in a graphic display that forces a physical reaction out of me. 

There is more than one twist throughout the play, and I find that I can never fully relax. For the first time at the theatre, I experience real fear, even crying out at times and startling the people next to me. I leave with a new awareness for the potential damage that can be inflicted by the stories we tell.


$25 Tickets

59E59 Theater
thru June 28th