September 16, 2008

‘Mauritius’ Has Stamp of Success

By Ted Hadley

So, stamp collecting can be dangerous to your health. Who knew?

The plot of Theresa Rebeck's recent play, "Mauritius" -- which lasted a few days more than a month on Broadway a year ago, concerns nervous negotiations over a pair of rare stamps worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe more. The talks involving two philatelists, an oily liaison and a pair of feuding sisters, get tense, then violent. The last person standing most likely will get the prize.

Theresa Rebeck is one of America's bright young playwrights, and "Mauritius" is her first Broadway entry. Rebeck is intrigued by "bad behavior," she says, and her five combatants in "Mauritius" are case studies in avarice, anger and revenge. It takes some work to care about any of them.

Sisters Jackie and Mary are gathering their late mother's things; Jackie has been a faithful caregiver, Mary a latecomer. A stamp album is found. They could be valuable, but the sisters know nothing about what is historic or pristine, or if collectors see the stamps as art or politically significant. The stamps carry mid-19th century dates from the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, once British property. Amid the costume jewelry and other memorabilia, the album is a magnet.

There is an argument about ownership of the album. Mary says it's hers; Jackie disagrees and runs off to Philip, a seedy, disinterested expert. Shop hanger-on Dennis, a con man with charm, knows enough about stamps to see some possibilities. A deal is made to talk to money man Sterling, who is perpetually vile, a snake. Thus begins a series of shifting allegiances -- the five all have double-cross in their DNA -- and the lies mount, deceptions multiply, there is threat and cajole. Jackie is in over her head but is learning fast. Seemingly sweet Mary turns manipulator. Sleepy Philip plans to grab some action, and Dennis is sweating the details. Sterling, con man extraordinaire, may possibly meet his match.

"Bad behavior," indeed.

The Kavinoky Theatre is gleeful about its new stage season, "Mauritius" being the first of five plays new to the area. The Rebeck play is a superb example of the power of the ensemble. And director Anne Gayley, while dismayed at the crudeness of the characters and lives gone awry, is nevertheless enthralled with the passion of the tale. She has a cast blessed with estimable talents to make it all boil: Kate LoConti, Peter Jaskowiak, Brian Riggs, Peter Palmisano and Kavinoky regular Eileen Dugan. This is an acting clinic.

It does take awhile to reach an uneasy resolve, with too much talk near the end of the conflict. But this is a memorable opening for the Kavinoky, its best in years, a cast for the ages and a wise director at work.



3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

Drama presented through Oct. 12 in Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave.

For more information, call 829-7668 or visit

Originally published by NEWS CONTRIBUTING REVIEWER.

(c) 2008 Buffalo News. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.