Magazine article The New Yorker

HATS TO DIE IN Series: 5/6

Magazine article The New Yorker

HATS TO DIE IN Series: 5/6

Article excerpt

Caryl Churchill's new play, "Far Away," depicts a surreal dystopia, not too far in the future, in which a totalitarian government performs weekly mass executions to the accompaniment of tinny martial music; a global war has escalated so that not only have the French and the Chinese formed strategic alliances but so have the world's cats, crocodiles, and rivers; and the millinery trade has been taken over by the government, to perverse and sickening ends. The dramatic centerpiece of the play, which is currently showing at New York Theatre Workshop, is a stunning cavalcade of thirty-five hats, among them one in the shape of a black galleon, another with a bright-red wimple and enormous globes over the ears, like something that might be worn by a punk nun. The unfortunate wearers of the hats--they include an athletic-looking man whose hat is bedecked with a big rose, and a wan woman who trails a train of red net bigger than she is--are destined for a rather less pleasant fate than a day out at the Easter Parade, as is revealed by the rest of their outfits, which consist of prison pajamas and manacles around their wrists and ankles.

The hats were created by Catherine Zuber, the show's costume designer. "The structure of the hat is born out of the hat telling you, in a way, what it needs to be," Zuber explained one recent chilly morning, backstage at the theatre. She drew her inspiration from hat history--the galleon hat is based on an eighteenth-century illustration--and from contemporary haute couture. …

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