I love safari adventures. I mean, I’ve never been on one, and I’m not much for outdoorsy-type things. I hate bugs and have a debilitating fear of snakes. So maybe I should be more precise: I love the idea of safari adventure. Or maybe even more precise: I love the idea of safari adventures as presented by Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Banana Republic. Not the Banana Republic we have today, oh no. The Banana Republic we had in the 80s when there were actual, antique British Jeeps displayed in stores and filled with t-shirts with elephants and zebras on the back. Mosquito nets hung from the ceilings and some of the clothes and accessories were legit army surplus. I bought a surplus utility belt that was olive drab and put a heavy emphasis on the utility part of utility belt. My mom bought a flight suit-styled jumpsuit in all three colors: khaki, gray, and, of course, olive drab. Sometimes she borrowed my utility belt.
I owned a pith helmet. Seriously. I wore it to band camp. Don’t judge me. I wasn’t the only one. It was Ft. Lauderdale in the 80s; if you weren’t wearing a Banana Republic t-shirt, you probably were wearing one from Panama Jack. Panama’s and pith’s keep you cool in the tropics. Mine was pink. (You can buy one all your own on eBay.)
I have always maintained, and will continue to do so, that my dream job is boat captain on Disney’s Jungle Cruise. I know how you stop a rhino from charging. Take away his credit card. I could maneuver the boat past Schweitzer falls to share with happy, tired, sweaty park goers a “sight rarely seen by human eyes: the back of water!” (I am not the only person who loves the Jungle Cruise. Check out this awesome tribute site.)
The Explorers Club, a new play from Nell Benjamin, was, for me, the theater equivalent of riding the Jungle Cruise while wearing a Banana Republic t-shirt and a Panama Jack pith helmet. The play certainly lives up to reviews: “Comic gold!” raves the Daily News. “Wildly Funny!” says Variety. But, for explorers and safari adventurers like myself, it is so much more.
It has everything: a ground breaking female adventurer, a native from a lost city, uptight Englishmen, and a guinea pig named Jane. The cast is beyond fantastic, the play is hysterical, and the set decoration is my posh Victorian safari dream come to life. There are shrunken heads behind the bar, a magnificent globe in the corner, and a stuffed walrus, amongst other things, on the wall. (Being a thoroughly modern production, they encourage you to take pictures of the set and share them on the social media platform of your choice. Voilá!)
I recently read an article about the newly remodeled Four Seasons in the Serengeti in Tanzania. It takes like twenty-nine hours to get there, but, once you’re there, you don’t have to ride in a bumpy jeep or sleep in tent. The hotel pools are next to some of the watering holes. The elephants come to you! And so do the cocktails. The explorers in The Explorers Club would be so proud.
Unfortunately, the price of such an adventure still requires a Royal sponsor or, at least, an internet guru’s fortune. So I’ll just turn on The African Queen, pour myself a tumbler of scotch, and pop on the pith helmet. Or maybe watch those YouTube clips of The Explorers Club one more time.