A young woman inherits a stamp collection and gets involved in the shady stamp underworld against the wishes of her sister – if you can believe such a thing exists.
Should you see it?
Mauritius is a word you likely aren’t familiar with. It’s the name of an island nation buried deep in the Indian Ocean. Here’s another term you might be unfamiliar with: philatelist, meaning one who collects stamps. Two final-jeopardy terms on the poster of a play maybe isn’t such a great marketing strategy, but don’t be discouraged, this is a great play.
Mauritius tells the story of Jackie, a young girl trying to get an appraisal of her grandfather’s stamp collection. Local philatelists all see green when they see the stamps, which include a rare and valuable set originating from Mauritius. Jackie becomes caught in a manipulative con to get those stamps out of her hands. All while Jackie’s sister, Mary, makes it clear that she thinks she’s the rightful owner of those very precious stamps.
From the opening monologue, I knew this was a well written play. Accomplished playwright and screenwriter Theresa Rebeck has received critical acclaim for her theatrical works, and it shows in this production. Rebeck breathes new life into the boring hobby of stamp collecting with one of the most conflict driven shows I’ve seen. It’s not just a play where people argue over stamps; these are selfishly motivated characters who begin to lose themselves as they fight for tiny pieces of postage. It’s a great thriller mixed with laughs and sentiment, hitting all the right notes with a powerful, confrontational second act.
The centerpiece of this production was unquestionably Laura Hall’s performance as Jackie. Every moment she was on stage, her character was visibly overflowing with anxiety and desperation. It was as if she was ready to explode with frustration during every scene. She is certainly an actress to watch, with an engaging presence on stage. As the perfect foil to Jackie’s uncertainty, John Collins’ portrayal of Sterling was cold and calculating as he vied for power in any way he could get it.
Cindy Beaton as Mary was a highlight of the first act as she gloated over Jackie with delightful condescension. The gruff store owner Phil, played by Lawrence Evenchick, is a real small-town character, a great contrast to Chris Cottrell’s outstanding performance as Dennis, who portrays all the slick sensibilities of a con man, a manipulator in every scene.
With great sets and a smart use of music, this was a good production all around. As noted by a warning in the program, there’s a lot of of “strong language” and violent outbursts, which might be distasteful to some, but was not unwarranted in my opinion. However, there certainly were moments where the verbal sparring between characters became a little exhausting.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Mauritius. It was full of surprises, including the fact that it was quite a good story despite its terrible title. With great performances, the play lives up to its thriller genre. It’s an engaging and exciting production, not to be missed by anyone looking for something a little different.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you enjoy Mauritius? Could you relate to the characters? Tell me know in the comments below.
Mauritius runs at the Ottawa Little Theatre from April 29th until May 17th. For more information check out our preview article.