Cape Disappointment Does Not Disappoint

My only regret about seeing The Debate Society’s Cape Disappointment last night at PS122 is that I was seeing it for the first time and will not get to see it again.

I’ve been a big fan of The Debate Society since Morgan Pecelli first dragged me to Brooklyn to see The Snow Hen in a freezing warehouse theater space called Charlie Pineapple.

My how these kids have grown! Cape Disappointment is a wonderful holiday gift of a show and easily the most sophisticated, nuanced and elaborate work to date from the collaborative team of Butler, Thureen and Bos.  They’ve added in comic actor Michael Cyril Creighton – also doing some of his best work to date- and Pamela Payton-Wright who – as a woman of a certain age –  brings a new level of depth and resonance to the already-poignant writing and pitch-perfect direction.

Run-on sentence. Sorry. I’m kind of running out the door as I write this so the analysis/comment will be brief. Artistically Cape Disappointment is wonderful – the Debate Society has really matured and articulated a unique and distinctive voice/aesthetic. It is haunting, gentle, elliptical, poetic, humorous, bittersweet occasionally startling and intense but always true.

Hannah and Paul continue to perfect a kind of “midwestern existential” style of acting that is at once hilarious and heartbreaking, poetic (I said the “p word” again!) and realistic.

And as far as new voices in the American Theater – I think this company, through this show and  last year’s The Eaten Heart – may be at the forefront of developing a distinctly American theatrical form that is at once literate and experimental but still deeply rooted in the American Myth. Kind of like Shepard or Mamet but without all the hyper-macho posturing and foul language. 

I know there are countless companies and writers out there that are making innovative and powerful new work but in terms of a distinctly New American Theater I would say look at Kristen Kosmas, Jenny Schwartz, Thomas Bradshaw, Young Jean Lee, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Richard Maxwell (obviously) Radiohole, The TEAM, the Debate Society, Pig Iron and maybe a handful of others who are working in deeply experimental and adventurous ways while profoundly engaging with American-ness.

Um. Yeah. So go see Cape Disappointment!

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