What kind of woman would take a whack at a baby carriage? That’s the question in Sadie Hasler’s “Pramkicker,” a funny, verbally brutal two-woman play that Taffety Punk Theatre’s Esther Williamson and Tonya Beckman act with swagger.
It’s a blistering script. The c-word flies as the two grown British sisters rehash how Jude, the eldest, blew up in a coffee shop and kicked some entitled mother’s pram. At 38, Jude — played like a clenched fist by Williamson — is childless, and apparently ripe for anger management sessions.
Linking childlessness and misery is risible but inevitable as the sisters replay the incident. Hasler layers in the back story of Jude and younger sister Susie (a comparatively easygoing Beckman), a pair of weathered roughnecks from the working class, and it unfolds with the energy of a barroom tale. Hasler’s language triggers fight scenes with an edge of comedy as we see how manic Jude can get and even giddiness in a “Dirty Dancing” bit that’s apparently an ancient ritual between the sisters.
Does motherhood come with special social privileges? If not, why did Serena Williams invoke motherhood during her tirade at a U.S. Open chair umpire? Jude wouldn’t buy Serena’s argument. The exaltation of all things maternal is what sets her off and makes her kick prams. It makes her “child-free” position feel small.
Hasler covers a lot of ground in 70 minutes, which clicks by quickly in director Linda Lombardi’s efficient, sensitive staging. You get the winning rapport between the sisters, the prickly arguments that melt into simple images of bonding as scenes pivot. You can feel, as Williamson and Beckman toss personas on and off, the Dickensian scenes of street survival, of violence, rape, abortion.
“Pramkicker” debuted at British fringe festivals, and it retains its actor-driven edginess in the intimate Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, where you are practically a member of the anger management session. The characters are gritty but reflective; when Jude and Susie analyze their fears and isolation, their points of view ring true. Hasler takes a selective slice of the social strata and uses Jude to pose tough questions — or, rather, to give them a rude kick.
Pramkicker, by Sadie Hasler. Directed by Linda Lombardi. Set and prop design, Kate Fleming; choreography, Kelly King; lights, Chris Curtis; fight director, Lorraine Ressegger-Slone; costumes, Heather C. Jackson. About 70 minutes. Through Sept. 29 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th St. SE. $15. taffetypunk.com