Welcome to Paradise is a story for a generation of people who never thought they would get old. They are like Walter Peabody, who was in a rock band in Berkeley in 1967, and now, after having enjoyed a charmed life as a successful jingle writer and ad exec, is 60, and freshly retired. He had never really thought it could happen, never considered what would happen when it did. He still feels young. His wife Joan, the more anxious one, had done the worrying and the prodding. And so, given his love of fishing and the lure of warm weather, they have purchased a condo. In a gated community in Florida.
Walter doesn’t know if this is what he wants, or even what it’s like. He doesn’t really know Joan anymore, having worked all hours and fallen into a kind of happy distance. Joan has a very different attitude toward life than her husband, for whom life’s rewards seem to pile up without effort. She has fretted about what’s next, planned it, envisioned it, designed it, and organized it. Only she too forgot about her other, and what it was like with Walter.
Because the first thing Walter does is be Walter. When he arrives, he talks up the first person he meets, causes the usual havoc, accidentally assaults the people she wants to know most. Joan had it in her heart that she would establish herself, make friends, and keep up an active and social lifestyle. Her recreational drinking would fade away, and she would sail into old age as a woman of depth, and importance. She was kidding herself, and before long she realizes that her relationship with Walter is the issue she must face first. On the other hand, Walter begins to make friends. Like the widow who used to own the condo they bought, and sees her husband in Walter. And Jack Brand, who still drops in on his old job enough to keep up an affair, and happily keeps two lives. And amidst these newfound friends, Walter begins to think about how he feels, and to wonder about what he’s doing with the rest of his life. And whether he wants to stay with his wife at all.
But of course for those blessed enough to dream about what they can still do, tragedy often strikes, as it does here, and the fall to earth proves painful. Relationships are torn apart, discoveries are made, secrets are laid bare. What you represent to your children is under siege. Everything you built is suddenly upon sand. Whether you will ever love again is now a question. And the worst of all, how will you face death.
And the answers, for these characters, lies in the relationships they already have, the things they have taken for granted, and the future that is left. And if there is anything to realize, it is that life doesn’t stop at 60. It continues, as it always does, with the same human challenges that confronted us when we were young, of who you are, and how to love. Tragic and funny, Welcome to Paradise offers a chance for 60 somethings to show they still matter.