By EW Staff
Updated December 13, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

(Through Jan. 18) The Holocaust, 1984, and Kafka rush to mind in this brilliant but brutal new piece by the inimitable Caryl Churchill (Cloud 9, Top Girls). Starring the risk-taking Frances McDormand (Fargo), this surreal, nearly sci-fi play paints a cryptic portrait of a violent futuristic society, and rises to an incredible pitch with the season’s most crushing stage image: the Parade of Hats. In this shattering sequence, dozens of humiliated death-row prisoners are forced to display grand, peacock-feathered headpieces while a deafening offstage crowd cheers them on. Absurd as it sounds, this searing scene speaks volumes about cultures of violence and media distraction. Ultimately, despite the play’s title and its anticlimactic finale, Churchill’s frightening world seems too close for comfort.

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