Victor and Victoria's Terrifying Tale of Terrible Things
nytheatre.com review by Mary Beth Smith
August 17, 2011
Victor and Victoria's Terrifying Tale of Terrible Things at the New York International Fringe Festival follows a night in the lives of child twins Victor and Victoria. From the onset we discover that this night is an unusual night, as Victor, awakened by nightmares and fear, seeks comfort from his sister who seems to believe that Victor's fear is all in his head. The night progresses with the twins acting out various make-believe stories including a book they find called "Terrifying Tale of Terrible Things." The two play dozens of different characters from these stories over the course of the play.
As an audience we have a great time with the two actors, Nathan Cuckow and Beth Graham as they play together on stage. However, as they begin to tell the Terrifying Tale it becomes harder and harder to maintain focus as the audience is never fully aware of where the story is going. The play, which turns into a horror story, is filled with comic relief for the entirety of the show until the end when it's far too late to capture the audience's attention. While the conceit of the show is intriguing, the overall execution is lacking in terms of structure. The play appears to be solely about two siblings playing while their parents are out of the house, but the conflict is never presented. We assume that the story is really about the way children play make-believe when in reality it is about something much darker and more sinister. We get an idea of this at the very beginning of the play but the sense of terror that Victor feels dissipates early on as a simple childish nightmare and nothing more.
While intrinsically there are problems with the story, the acting and the directing in this production is superb. All of the characters that the children play are fully developed and distinct from one another. For the actors, this is truly a showcase of their abilities both as comedians and impressionists and they are able to successfully juxtapose the humor with the horror. For director Kevin Sutley, this production is also a testament to his abilities to use very little set in order to create the many make-believe worlds that the twins inhabit. He intelligently uses one set piece, a bed sheet, to create everything from a vampire's cape, to a beauteous flower, to a mother's womb. He also does a wonderful job at keeping the pace fast as Victor and Victoria jump from one thing to the next at lightning speed while taking the audience along for the ride.
Overall, this play delivers wonderful performances and highlights the skills of the very talented artists that are a part of this production, but it falls short in terms of the story. It's a play that very much wants to be more than it currently is, in that the major action is revealed far too late in the story for it to mean much for the audience. While we have a wonderful time being a part of Victor and Victoria's world for a brief moment in time, we miss the true fear that the show should provoke at the end of the play.