Slightly Askew Theatre has come up with another show befitting the group’s name. Cuddles sounds a lot cozier than its reality. Two sisters (or are they?), one of whom is a teenager who stays in her room in a castle-like building, the other a strong-willed businesswoman and her sister’s caretaker, are the characters in this one-act play. Eve, the young one, is a vampire, played by Rachel Tibbets. Ellie Schwetye is the older sister Tabby, one of the coldest characters we’ve seen onstage in a long time. She explains the outside world to her sister, but the explanations are either deliberate lies – or elaborate fantasies to protect the sister from that outside world. It’s hard to decide which.
There are other things that are difficult to decide. How much of the back story we’re given is true? Admittedly, if you’re willing to concede that vampires exist, reality is a flexible concept, of course, but the questions persist. Is Eve really Tabby’s sister? Why did their mother abandon them?
And then there’s the vampire problem. “It’s just an addiction,” declares Tabby, who also has the great line, “Why drink blood if you can have Fanta?” (The drink is much more popular in Great Britain, which is where this takes place, than in the US.)
This is a strange play. And at one point, it exhibits an item that is a first on St. Louis stages, to my knowledge. However, what Eve holds up is difficult to recognize from a distance. It may well shock some people. But the play is, if you’ll pardon the phrase, bloody intriguing.
Joe Hanrahan, who knows his way around off-beat scripts, has directed the play, and it mostly works very well. The glitches come with the acoustics in The Chapel, a perfect setting visually, but notorious for being unable to hear actors well. Schwetye, wearing the ice queen mantle very well indeed, is bone chilling. Tibbets gives Eve the immaturity of an adolescent who’s not experienced the world, particularly in the physical demands of the part, but there’s more gravitas to her, somehow, than one would expect.
The interesting and very evocative set is the work of Bess Moynihan, who also did the lighting. Hanrahan himself handled the sound design, with some fun old tunes. The program also credits a “Heavy Lifting Squad” and a “Spirit Guide/Electrician”, another first, I think, for St. Louis theatre.
Ninety minutes, no intermission. One of those evenings that audiences leave with lots of questions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
through November 12
Slightly Askew Theatre Company
6238 Alexander Drive