BWW Review: HATPIN PANIC at Capital Fringe Curated Series
As part of this year's Fringe Curated series, Hatpin Panic by Iris Dauterman is a relevant romp through the long-running suffrage movement with a heart of giddy resistance. The opening scene is set at the turn of the 20th century where a group of women defend themselves from street harassment using their hatpins. This is a true story, one that has gotten lost in history's many shuffles, and observing the way decision ripples is both entertaining and sobering.
Dauterman's script, a hodgepodge of history, weaves in and out of the lives of women fighting the patriarchy - from the titular hatpin panic to a woman running for Congress today. The cast - Pooja Chawl, Sarah Gavitt, Karen Lange, Jennifer Osborn and Alana Sharp - do a remarkable job of playing these many characters, women and men, across time. In particular, Lange, as the woman who first advises her younger friends to use their hatpins in self-defense, shows a tremendous amount of character evolution in a few short seconds as she realizes just how unsafe they feel.
The creative team has crafted a flexible world for the ensemble to play in. Jenny McConnell Frederick directs the cast through a series of vignettes with grace, dexterity and a keen attention to the details of each setting, from a vaudeville routine to a heartbreaking scene between an Irish woman, long the victim of her husband's abuse, and a well-meaning but comfortably inactive police officer. While it becomes difficult to keep track of character names - and even a few time periods - the emotion and urgency are never lost.
Kiana Vincenty's costumes, evocative and flexible, are punctuated by a series of rotating hats. The platform set and props by Willow Watson and lights by Jason Aufdem-Brinke make excellent use of a limited space (one of Arena Stage's classrooms, dubbed "Strawberry" by Capital Fringe). And a no-pun-intended prop to a hugely creative prop design by Watson, the reveal of which comes right at the end. Pay attention to the hatracks.
At an exact 60 minute runtime, this group makes you feel not only the weight of the suffrage movement, but the ways things haven't changed. This is the most effective type of Fringe show - it has many things to say and says them well, handles wild tonal shifts that Fringe audiences are conditioned to expect, and does all of that with a creatively used budget. This one shouldn't be missed; you have five more chances to catch it, and can buy your tickets here.