by Case Aiken · August 11, 2014
In doing some research for this review of Come Cuddle Me, a new show in this year’s New York International Fringe Festival, I came across quite a few hits on the internet with that phrase. While I had heard of “cuddle parties” wherein people go to just physically bond with one another in a non-amorous manner, I hadn’t realized that the concept was so standardized and prevalent. The phrase itself permeates tumblr with all sorts of gifs and there are all kinds of meet up sites that use some variation of the phrase. Well, that’s good. Good theater is supposed to connect the audience with ideas and scenes that they may not have been aware of and having the main setting of the show be one of these cuddle parties definitely serves to do that.
Come Cuddle Me is a one woman show, par for the course for any FringeNYC festival. Writer/performer Nicole "Coco" Roberge leads us through a timid first time experience at a cuddle party, branching out to portray multiple characters at times. The extra side characters prove to be the most interesting ones, particularly the ones who come off as damaged souls just needing some form of affection. Weirdly, I was all set to dismiss this piece, as it opens on a less than strong note featuring the lead assuming the role of a psychologist and dumping a large amount of the science behind the events in sort of a schticky way, but once it got rolling I came around to rather enjoying the show. Ms. Roberge stumbled a little with the psychologist character (who as a character is at best only semi-relevant to the rest of the piece and could easily have the expository aspect transferred to the main character or the cuddle leader), but the rest of the roles are well handled and feel very human.
Not at all surprisingly, the audience is invited up to cuddle on stage, and after a few moments of “Wait, are we…? Is she serious?” uncertainty, several people, myself included, finally got up and shared a big group hug before being invited to bow all together. Did this physical connection warm my spirits towards the piece? Maybe. If that was the intent, well played Come Cuddle Me, well played. Regardless, the moments in the piece where the desire for closeness comes out are where it’s at its strongest. I came out liking the endeavor and having a new appreciation for the science of cuddling, so I think the show did its job.