unfortunates

The UnfortunatesOn a cold foggy night, Mary Jane Kelly seeks after-hours refuge in the Ten Bells Pub. She’s behind in her rent, she’s lost her key, she’s alone, and it’s 1888 – a bad time to be poor and “unfortunate” on the streets of London, where one of history’s most notorious serial killers is at work.

When she discovers a lone stranger drinking in the closed pub, Mary sees an opportunity to turn her situation around, embarking on a desperate attempt to sell her story rather than herself.

Winner of the Gloria Ann Peter and Susan Glaspell playwriting awards, Aoise Stratford’s THE UNFORTUNATES is a rich and riveting exploration of an unforgettable moment in time, and a woman who deserves to be remembered for much more than her death.


The New York Times called it “haunting…engrossing” and TimeOut New York gave it 4 stars and said, “it achieves a rare combination of pathos and humor, breathing fresh life into women we might have otherwise think of only as long-dead prey.”

“THE ROUGH AND OCCASIONALLY TENDER TEXTURE OF THIS TIME AND PLACE COME TO LIFE. THIS WOMAN BECOMES MORE THAN A NAME ON A CRIME BLOTTER, TO BE AN ACTUAL, THREE-DIMENSIONAL PERSON WORTHY OF HER OWN STORY.”
~ CHICAGO TRIBUNE

“GAIL RASTORFER AS KELLY IS ENGAGING… SHE FLIRTS, CAJOLES, BARGAINS, AND RELIVES HER DESPERATE LIFE STORY, COMPLETE WITH MULTIPLE CHARACTERS AND ACCENTS.”
~ CHICAGO READER

“A TRULY MARVELOUS PERFORMANCE WHICH SPANS HILARIOUS SATIRE AND SOCIAL COMMENTARY TO THE DEEPEST PAIN AND SORROW, GAIL RASTORFER RESTORES A LIVING FACE TO SOMEONE WHO IS REMEMBERED ONLY FOR BEING A VICTIM.”
~ CHICAGO CRITIC

“GAIL RASTORFER IS MAGNIFICENT. SHE CAPTURES THE INDOMITABLE SPIRIT OF A STRONG WOMAN, MAKING THIS CHARACTER HONEST, HUMANE, AND SOMEONE WE CARE ABOUT VERY MUCH.”
~ CHICAGO THEATRE REVIEW

SoloChicago has another hit to its credit, on the recent heels of their previous excellent production of “Churchill.” Kurt Johns has found an exciting, spine-tingling play that’s deserving of this company’s typically professional production. It’s a captivating portrait of a real person, a strong, admirable survivor who becomes much more than a mere statistic as Jack the Ripper’s last victim. And in Gail Rastorfer’s hands, guided by Kurt Johns and his gifted technical team, this play is an absolute must-see, guaranteed to bring chills to a warm summer Chicago night.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review
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The Unfortunates, staged by the new SoloChicago Theatre Company, is an excellent second outing from the company that produced the hit one-man show, Churchill, starring Ronald Keaton, in 2015…Rastorfer, skillfully directed by Kurt Johns, is a convincing Mary Jane, sometimes gay and chatty and sometimes wrenchingly sad and fearful. She portrays, with voice, manner and gesture, all the other characters in her life. The 85-minute play at Theater Wit is a history lesson and a human story.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Nancy Bishop, Third Coast Review
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Victims of serial and mass killers are often thought to be people who were simply unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and therefore, to prevent future atrocities, a greater study should be made of the killer. Stratford seems interested in challenging that idea, in as much as that Jack the Ripper’s victims were recognized even in their own time as people who had been written off and undervalued, and therefore, their targeting was not totally random and Victorian London had some soul-searching to do. Getting into the habit of listening to people like Mary Jane Kelly may be one of the most potent ways to prevent repeats of what happened to her. At the very least, with Rastorfer’s performance, it’s a fine way to pass the time in its own right.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, MUST SEE! – Jacob Davis, ChicagoCritic

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“POWERFULLY REALISTIC…Aoise Stratford’s The Unfortunates is the story of one woman’s struggle through the violence and atrocities that women faced in 1800’s Victorian London. It shows us the plight of Mary Jane Kelly, the prostitute believed to be the final victim of Jack the Ripper. Kelly, played by Gail Rastorfer, recounts her life as one of the ‘unfortunate’ women, growing up poor and being forced into a life of prostitution. The story is told through a one-on-one conversation between Kelly and a stranger in the Bells Public House, where she reveals her life story of how she went from a housewife in a Welsh mining town to a desperate prostitute turning tricks in the London’s East End. Although opportunity from generous clients has taken her as far as Paris, presently she hasn’t even enough to pay rent.”

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Stacey L. Crawley, ShowBizChicago

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Since the beginning of time, women have been marginalized in history – particularly those on the fringes of society. The Unfortunates highlights one such woman, in a matter-of-fact, humorous and empathetic story that never loses its sense of existential dread and horror. We know from the beginning that nothing good will happen to Mary Jane Kelly once she leaves the deserted pub, and we empathize with her hard-luck existence and the measures she’s been forced to take to keep herself alive. Beautifully written, directed and acted, The Unfortunates looks back on a dark time in history and the first tabloid serial killer. Aoise Stratford’s darkly funny and disturbing one-woman play is intelligently directed by Kurt Johns and wonderfully performed by Gail Rastorfer, resulting in a most memorable 85 minutes.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Rating: ★★★½ – Lauren Whalen, Chicago Theatre Beat

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Aoise Stratford-Playwright – Aoise Stratford’s work has had more than 100 productions around the country and overseas in Canada, Europe, England, Scotland, Australia and The Philippines. She is the recipient of several awards for her plays Somewhere in Between (Pinter Review Prize for Drama Silver Medal, Yukon Pacific Playwright Award), and The Unfortunates (Susan Glaspell Award, Gloria Anne Peter Award). Her short plays have also won her ‘best playwright’ awards at been produced at Lookingglass Theatre, City Theatre, Lakeshore Players, Stage Door, The American Globe, Manhattan Theatre Source, The Kitchen Theatre Company, The Exit Theater and many others. She has been a finalist for the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award and been nominated for an American Theatre Critics’ Association New Play/Steinberg Award. The Unfortunates was a TimeOut NY Critics Pick for the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival and selected as one of the best solo shows of the fringe as well as one of the ten shows not to miss by Backstage. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and is represented by Beacon Artists Agency NY. Her work has been published by Dramatists Play Service, Smith and Kraus, JAC Press, United Stages and others. She is currently teaching playwriting at Cornell University and working on a new play about vampires.
Gail Rastorfer (Mary Jane Kelly) – Gail has made Chicago her artistic home for the last 20 years where is has worked with The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, The Chicago Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Theatre at the Center, and First Folio Theatre among others. She’s been honored to bring new plays to life such as Hickorydickory (Chicago Dramatists) and The Gamester (Northlight). Regional credits include The Heidi Chronicles , The Game’s Afoot and You Can’t It with You (Asolo Repertory Theatre), Ten Chimneys and In the Next Room: or the vibrator play (Cleveland Playhouse), As You Like It (Indiana Repertory Theater), and < i> Mauritius (Madison Repertory). This past fall she worked with director Peter Amster on The Mousetrap (The Maltz Jupiter Theatre). Her television credits include Chicago Fire, Crisis, Boss, Chicago Code and a wide range of national commercials selling everything from insurance to vacuums. She serves on the Chicago board of SAG-AFTRA and is a proud member of AEA. www.GailRastorfer.com.
Kurt Johns (Director)  – Kurt is the Artistic Director of SoloChicago Theatre Company. He directed the World Premiere of SoloChicago’s inaugural production of Churchill at the Greenhouse Theatre Center and at New World Stages in New York City. He worked with theatre majors on contemporary musical theatre literature at Chicago College of Performing Arts where he directed the Midwest premiere of Lysistrata Jones. Kurt directed Apple Tree Theatre’s multi-award nominated transfer production of The Mistress Cycle at the Auditorium Theatre. Also at Apple Tree, Kurt directed Pen, Iron, The Tale of The Allergist’s Wife and Vincent in Brixton for which he received an After Dark Award. He also directed Iolanthe and Berlin to Broadway at Light Opera Works. Before turning to directing Kurt was an actor and performed in several Broadway productions including Chess and Aspects of Love. In Chicago he performed numerous times at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, The Goodman Theatre as well as Drury Lane Theatre and Apple Three. www.KurtJohns.com.

Creative Staff
Kurt Johns (Director)
Meg Elliott (Understudy-Mary Jane Kelly)
Jenniffer Thusing (Stage Manager, Scenic Coordinator)
Heather Sparling (Lighting Designer)
Alice Broughton (Costume Designer)
Paul Deziel (Projections Designer)
Eric Backus (Sound Designer, Composer)
Lynn Nelson Donovan (Properties)
Jason Shivers (Production Manager)

SoloChicago Theatre Company

2355 W. Jarvis Ave, Chicago, IL 60645

contact@solochicagotheatre.com