In Thomas Nashe’s novel The Unfortunate Traveller, the young servant-soldier Jack Wilton swashbuckles his way through the Grand Tour about a century before such European travels became a standard part of a wellborn gentleman’s education. In Prop Thtr’s 2 Unfortunate 2 Travel, director Zach Weinberg and his excellent ensemble retell Jack’s story in the present day.
But who is Jack, and why do we need to hear about his trip to Mexico? In brief, Jack is the whitest white boy you have ever seen and, because travel literature along with colonialism has long been the province of white men, 2 Unfortunate takes the fascinating approach of having Jack tell the story of his “post-election panic vacation” through the voices and bodies of six young women (three Irish, four of color—you do the math) in a cabaret-style performance on a set constructed almost entirely of cardboard (by Melissa Schlesinger). It works beautifully.
What makes this adaptation so delightful are its gifted performers, who not only deliver Jack’s diary entries as strikingly individual monologues but also incorporate other storytelling methods—dance, spoken-word poetry, violin, puppetry—to create a parallel narrative that ranges between reinforcement and subversion of Jack’s earnest discovery of other places and other cultures. This becomes an exceptionally powerful confrontation of issues such as allyship, safe spaces, and the political implications of its own premise. The running gag of having Jack’s philosophical waxing at the end of each episode drowned out by music does not get old. v