4/23/2013 4:31 PM
Williams allows himself time on the proverbial soap box in this elegant one-act, somehow avoiding the didactic and achieving a brief-though-poignant character study. When a young, idealistic poet from the upscale Garden District of New Orleans decides to brave the then-slums of the French Quarter in search of a reclusive poet, she finds that perhaps art cannot conquer the cynical reality of life. Arriving at the door with only a small book of verse (found, appropriately, in an antique shop wedged beneath a table leg for balance), the bright-eyed writer somewhat benevolently greets the author and announces her intention to return him to the literary spotlight. She is taken aback, only slightly, by the disheveled state of the poet, but chalks it up to a life more bohemian than her own.
After the titular character gives the girl enough rope, he begins to slowly explain why he will not make “a return” to the literary world. It is in this message that Williams offers his commentary on art and on our ever-increasing indifference to the culture we leave behind. As Mr. Paradise monologues about society’s fascination with violence over beauty, he becomes a Tennessee Williams of another life, a writer who, like so many, lived and died for his art without recognition. Though Williams’ voice is clear in Paradise’s words, he still allows the audience to decide if Mr. Paradise is speaking the truth or lamenting his own missed opportunities. Like many of Williams’ one acts, Mr. Paradise cuts right to the message while still allowing the actors well-rounded, interesting characters to play; it’s Williams in concentrated form.