Jack Heller portrays the eponymous geezer, much like the aging Tennessee Williams himself, in “Mister Paradise,” the first in a trio of beautifully staged and acted slice-of-life one-acts about the ravages of growing old, taken from a collection of Williams' plays discovered after his death and assembled in a 2005 anthology. Mister Paradise is an alcoholic poet squandering in obscurity the remainder of his life in the French Quarter. A beautiful PhD candidate (Melissa Lechner) found a battered book of his works under a table leg in a book shop. She also found herself moved and inspired by the poems. She arrives at his door with the aim of “returning him to the world.” This slice of life is gorgeous, Beckettian meditation of mortality and eternity, the ownership of literature, and its higher purpose, expertly staged by Robert Burgos. “The Palooka” is a boxing drama that also studies aging, but through a old fighter (Timothy V. Murphy) trying to adopt a new identity to mask his “washed out” reputation. Under Brian Foyster's direction, William Mahoney and Jason Lopez also turn in chiseled performances as, respectively, a trainer and a young boxer. “And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens” shows the gay origins of Blanche Dubois. Also set in the French Quarter, it shows a brutish sailor's (Chris Rydell) visits to the apartment of a trasvestite-landlord, Mr. Delaney (Foyster), who takes the younger stud's contempt as a sign of affection. The play dances in the world of closeted yearnings, more horror at aging, and includes a pair of very fey tenants (Chris Carver and Jonathan Runon) who flesh out Mr. Delaney's limp-wristed, world of interior design. Interesting historically, the play's larger point now sits on the museum shelf of cliché. It boasts another round of sterling performances, this time directed by Heller. Danny Cistone designed the detailed, era-specific sets, and Dana Campbell's costume design contribute to the verisimilitude.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: March 21. Continues through July 20, 2008
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