June 9, 2015

“Cuddles” is an absurdly cute title for the sensational little shocker that opened at 59E59 Theaters on Tuesday night as part of their annual Brits Off Broadway series. This, er, bloodcurdling vampire drama, written by the young playwright Joseph Wilde, makes most movies, books or plays about the famously undead, however gory, seem like sweet little bedtime stories. In fact, “Cuddles,” which features just two performers, the spellbinding Carla Langley as the young Eve, and the commanding Rendah Heywood as her sister, Tabby, begins with Eve comforting herself with a fairy tale she’s invented. It’s a macabre one, about a king and a queen who long for a son but are given only a daughter, until one day another child — another girl — mysteriously appears. “A monster,” she calls the child, who is abandoned by her parents and raised by her sister: “She loved her and kept her secret and kept her safe. And raised her all alone.” This dark monologue has more than a little truth in it, we soon learn. Eve lives locked in a grubby attic room covered in newspaper spattered with what looks like blood. A small bed, two pails for waste and a child’s table and chairs are its only appurtenances, aside from a few books. (In its creepy squalor, the set, by James Turner, itself sends a flurry of chills down your spine.)