Wallace Shawn enters the fully lighted theater and breezily announces that his one-man show is about to begin. He discusses theater in general, and jokes about the difficulty of learning long lists of characters and listening to recorded announcements. He woos the audience, developing a comfortable rapport — then the lights go down and he sucks us into the neurotic, guilty, desperate mind of his unnamed character, the Traveler. There is nothing light or breezy about it.
The entirety of the 90 minutes is spent in discussion of the Traveler’s relationship to “the poor” in Third World countries and, by extension, the audience’s (as evidenced by the pre-show bonding session). The narrator, who was born and raised in the nice part of town, travels to some non-specific but horribly poor, war-torn place and discovers the inequality of the world. He worries that while he loves sitting in a dark theater in a cosmopolitan city, doing so is not saving the world. He discusses the “fetishism of commodities” and proudly exclaims that he felt nothing at the funeral of his good friend’s father because he was too busy feeling for “the poor.” He is most appealing and real in his indecision and inaction, and in the self-awareness that wreaks havoc on his mostly unchanged lifestyle. Shawn evokes in his audience unpleasant feelings of generalized guilt, and the whole ordeal is frustratingly far from being proactive. Which, of course, is exactly the point.