The Debate Society Tries a Downtown Drive-In, Finds Cape Disappointment

New York City lost its last drive-in, the Bronx's Whitestone, in the mid-1980s. With Cape Disappointment, playing at P.S.122, the Debate Society attempts a half-hearted re-creation of this all-American cinematic experience—without cars, rowdy kids, necking couples, or much in the way of film. Popcorn, however, is on offer, as are rows of rusted speaker boxes and the remnants of a concession stand. As it would be difficult to park automobiles on the second-floor theater, spectators sit in conventional rows and watch a series of mildly weird car-related vignettes, set somewhere in the mid-20th century.

Writer-performers Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen team up with two other actors to portray two flooring salesmen, a senile beauty queen, a gimpy virgin, a one-eyed pedophile, et al. The writing's harmless and the acting pleasant, yet the various scenes motor along without really engaging the imagination. Eventually, the creepiness palls, and the tonal sameness wears. Audiences may find themselves willing, as a voiceover advises, to "sit back, relax, refrain from loud talking and roughhousing," but not entirely able to "enjoy our feature presentation."

 
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