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Rants, Raves and Reviews: Paradise Enough for Me

Pieces of Paradise: Four plays by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Stephan Morrow
13Th Street Repertory Theatre
New York


New York, NY: So back I went this evening to the 13th Street Repertory Theatre for the performance of these four pieces. The Municipal Abattoir  and  The Palooka preceded a brief intermission and These are the Stairs You Gotta Watch and Mr. Paradise  concluded the evening. Blues guitarist,  Casey Spindler, provided the continuity that linked these four disparate pieces.

The Municipal Abattoir: This was creepy but interesting. Michael Halliday plays The Clerk, a long time Municipal employee who has been "condemned" and ordered to present himself to the Municipal Abattoir. Here humans are butchered and packaged for consumption. On the way he asks The Boy (Justin Adams) for directions.  The Boy who is planning to assassinate The General is horrified at the Clerk's acceptance of his fate, and tries to convince him to escape.  Conditioned by years as a civil servant The Clerk tells him "I do what I'm told. I never question instructions." Hmmm… I have often wondered about that excuse. This piece was clever  and raises philosophical questions about personal responsibility and choice. Adams was strong as the smart young resistor and Michael Halliday brought out the brainwashed weakness of the clerk, going lemming-like to his fate.

The Palooka. Although I thought that Doug Dewitt was very convincing as an aging boxer – and to my surprise read later that he is in fact a retired pro boxer, I thought the script was rather weak. I knew from the first mention of Charleston Joe what the ending was going to be and although Dewitt, Kevin Gall as The Kid and Timothy Lee as The Trainer were fine, the play reminded me of the many  short pieces I have seen at New Play Festivals. I wonder where it falls  chronologically in Williams's play list.  It seems as if it would be one of his very early works.

These are the Stairs You Gotta Watch features Carl (Christopher Kerson), ten year usher at a run down movie theatre, introducing Boy (Omen Sade) to his new work as an usher. He is warned about The Stairs that no one is allowed to go up. Despite a strong performance by Kerson, this piece too lacked depth. Or maybe I missed something. Was the decrepit movie theatre a metaphor for Kroger, dying of cancer, and for the questionable activities going on that made Kerson feel so dirty?  

Mr. Paradise was written in 1938, when Williams was 27 years old. I found  this play to be the strongest and most moving of the evening. Frederic Kimball was absolutely believable as the aged decrepit Jonathan Jones, once known as poet, Anthony Paradise, waiting for Gabriel to blow his horn. Pepper Binkely played The Girl who loved the poems she found in a book being used as a table leg prop in an antique store. The piece was beautiful and both actors did it justice.

On my way to the theatre I looked for "Mr. Paradise", the book in which the plays were recently published, but the stores I visited had no copies. Will check on my return from Philadelphia where I head tomorrow to give a talk. I am taking the train from Penn Station – another new experience for me. I usually fly in North America.  So an interesting evening and another interesting day tomorrow.