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Mauritius by Theresa Rebeck at main Stage West, Sebastopol


Mauritius by Theresa Rebeck
at Main Stage West, Sebastopol 

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo 

Beware the Stampsters

The latest presentation at Main Stage West, Mauritius is a uniquely intriguing caper chock-full of emotional tension and surprising plot twists, skillfully crafted into a rollercoaster ride worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. It’s a glimpse into the little-known world of high-stakes stamp collecting, where a single rare stamp can be worth killing for.

The story begins with estranged half-sisters Jackie (Ilana Niernberger) and Mary (Nancy Prebilich) who have just lost their mother but gained a large photo album. It’s filled with postage stamps that Mary’s late grandfather spent a lifetime collecting. One stamp in particular may be incredibly rare, the rarest of them all, and the fascinating story of its origins spins a tantalizing web. They suspect they may have a treasure, but whose is it? It’s plain to see their relationship was strained to begin with, but the tension rises to unbearable heights over such a fabulous prize. 

Jackie is determined to learn more about the stamps. Her quest leads her to the stamp shop of the aloof and nerdy Phil (Eric Thompson). She also meets long-time collector Dennis (Peter Downey) who shows an unusual interest in both Jackie and her stamps. The men soon arrange a clandestine meeting to introduce Jackie to their associate, the crafty and ruthless Sterling (John Craven). He proves to be a man with lots of money but few scruples.  

Award-winning playwright Theresa Rebeck’s work is widely produced throughout the United States and abroad. Her impressive resume also includes writing and producing for a number of popular television shows like NYPD Blue and Law and Order. Mauritius was originally produced in New York City at the Biltmore Theatre in 2007 and won a number of awards. Rebeck’s background in mystery and crime drama is evident in Mauritius’ tightly-written, punchy storyline.

The dialogue crackles with lightning-bolt exchanges between the characters. Niernberger delivers a fine-tuned, edgy performance as the frustrated and demoralized Jackie. For her, the precious stamps represent freedom from her repressed life after years of caring for her dying mother with no help from her absent half-sister. Prebilich presents Mary as a somewhat snooty, irritating person with a sense of entitlement and superiority.   Thompson and Downey give superb performances, but it’s the charismatic John Craven that looms large as the sinister Sterling.

Subtle touches by director Elizabeth Craven makes the show fun to watch. There are allusions to activities happening offstage between the scenes, with sly surprises in store. The show does drag a bit in spots, especially in the first act when the character relationships are being established, and we begin to learn just how much these folks’ lives could change because of a tiny piece of paper. The scene changes also seem to slow the play down, instead of allowing the action to flow smoothly. But there’s enough energy and spellbinding suspense, propelled by the fine cast, to make this a highly watchable and unforgettable show. You’ll never look at stamps quite the same way again.

Now through October 13, 2013

8:00 p.m Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays

5:00 p.m. Sundays

8:00 p.m. Thursday shows “Pay What You Will”

Tickets $15 to $25


Mauritas at Main Stage West, Sebastopol

Main Stage West
104 North Main Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-0177

Photos courtesy of Main Stage West 


Theater Review - For All Events- Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Suzanne and Greg Angeo