Ray Bradbury’s "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit"

It’s a shame that we have to outgrow Ray Bradbury. While his stories often boil down to a banal sentiment in the end, his language pulls you right into his fantasy worlds. “Kaleidoscope,” featuring astronauts thrown from their ship into space, begins with three images describing the ship torn open as a “giant can opener,” casting out men “as jackstones are scattered from a gigantic throw” who now appear like “a dozen wriggling silverfish” in the darkness. Space appears through images of down-home life in the Midwest that were the writer’s trademark. Even die-hard fans of realism cannot help but dive in for a device that pauses the moment of death and allows these men time to resolve personal issues.

I just read Bradbury’s stage adaptation of his story, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” and here we have another vivid tale that outshines its banal theme. The story of six Mexican men who pool funds to buy a cream-white suit, which they believe will change their lives, goes pretty much where savvier readers expect. But Bradbury’s sense of theatrics brings the sparks that recall his poetic short fiction. His description of the suit’s appearance on the stage is vivid as ever: “We cannot see into the booth. We see only the reflected pure white, holy light of the suit shimmering out like illumination from some far Arctic floe. The men’s faces are washed in snowy color. They peer in as at a shrine.” The image crystallizes before you realize how dangerously close the language is to going over-the-top. The drama moves briskly with such pictures, and helps re-situate the action to different settings.

Stuart Gordon, the cult film director, made a screen adaptation of the play with Joe Mantegna that is, unfortunately, still awaiting a DVD release.

-Matthew Sorrento
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