Reviewed by Will Stackman
Former Brandeis graduate student (MFA, PhD) Theresa Rebeck's new play " Mauritius" is receiving a powerhouse world premiere on the Huntington Theatre Co.s Wimberley stage at the BCA. The script, developed at Lark Center in NYC, was read last spring during HTC's Breaking Ground series. The script's since under gone further rewrites and is being directed by Woolly Mammoth's Rebecca Bayla Taichman, who's continuing her collaboration with Rebeck in a remounting of "The Scene" at Second Stage in NYC. That show ran successfully at last year's Humana Festival. Rebeck will also open another new play, "The Water's Edge" at Second Stage later in the season, not to mention future commissions for Playwrights Horizons, the Denver Theatre Center, and the Cincinnati Playhouse
"Mauritius" is a modern melodrama with farcical overtones involving sibling rivalry and stamp collecting. The latter obsession defines the plot complications, the former provides character development. The excellent five actor ensemble centers around wild child Jackie played by Obie winner Marin Ireland and prim Mary, her older half-sister, played by Boston's favorite Canadian actress, Norton winner and Brandeis MFA, Laura Latreille. Their struggle is over Mary's grandfather's stamp collection which has been in their mother's possession since his death. Jackie wants to sell, Mary claims sentimental attachment and rightful ownership, even though she's not been around for a long time. Jackie, who took care of their mother during her long decline due to cancer, has already started trying to find out what the collection's worth.
The album contains two legendary very early, almost priceless "error" stamps from the British colony of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. She's met with seeming indifference from seedy stamp dealer, Peter, played by Robert Dorfman, who appeared on Broadway as Zazu in :The Lion King." She's also been romanced by slick young operator, Dennis, played by Off-Broadway actor Michael Aronov, who she meets at the stamp shop. Dennis ultimately sets up a deal for her with a wealthy collector, belligerent Sterling, a shady Brit played by James Gale, who's acted both in NYC and London. And that's just the start of the plot.
While the show is predicated on past relations between Jackie and Mary leading to their present situation, between hanger-on Dennis and slothful Peter--which seems somehow paternal--and some sort of prior incident between Peter and Sterling, the play, like most melodramas is about present actions. The ensemble does almost seem like a tight dysfunctional family however, given to extended monologues, simultaneous arguments at cross-purposes, and devious often farcical personal confrontations. Jackie is the primary focus but Mary comes on strong in the pinch. Dennis is less a villain than a trickster, looking for excitement in the main chance. Further tweaking, when the show finds a future production, should heighten the intrigue.
As usual HTC hasn't stinted on production values. Trinity's Eugene Lee, whose last Obie was for "Wicked," who got an IRNE for "Top Dog..." has created a very detailed shabby office as the main scene, with wagons that come out of the walls for alternate locations. Costumes chosen by peripetatic Miranda Hoffman and jarring original music by Martin Desjardins add unique touches. The script may undergo further development to tie up loose ends, especially at the very end, but is a crackling show at the moment.