‘Mauritius’ depicts sticky world of stamp collecting

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd

Stamp collecting — it ain’t just the beloved pastime of geezers and geeks. If you don’t believe philately isn’t simply an innocent hobby, but something far more sinister, you must see Mauritius, presented by the Binghamton University Theatre Department.
This is the last weekend of the well-crafted and highly professional production, ably directed by Carol Hanscom and starring (mostly) theater majors and one professional ringer, BU theater professor Tom Kremer.
Mauritius, according to Wikipedia, had a one-month run on Broadway in 2007. It was written by Theresa Rebeck, previously a Pulitzer Prize drama nominee.
Mauritius has mystery, humor and interesting character development as the playwright peels away the plot, like a shiny pomegranate, to reveal some seedy and tart innards. Rebeck reveals just enough about her quintet of characters to keep you guessing as to their motives and capabilities,and leaves just enough questions unanswered to keep you pondering.
In this steely-eyed look at the world of stamp collecting, two estranged sisters inherit a stamp collection worth a fortune. The title refers to the “Blue Mauritius,” one of the world’s rarest stamps. The first official issue of postage stamps by a British colony, they bear the words “Post Office” rather than “Postage Paid.” Only 500 were printed, and most have been lost forever.
As the sisters squabble over who rightfully owns the collection, and whether it should be sold or donated to a museum for posterity, the game’s afoot.
In the cast, you’ve got con man Dennis, played by Jake Wentlent; stamp store owner Philip, played by Steven Tarnow; the two sisters, Jackie, played by Lindsay Ryan and Mary, portrayed by Kaitlyn Brown, and thug Sterling, acted by Kremer, all trying to out-con each other for the goods. The story is reminiscent of the play Proof about a damaged younger daughter who resents the seemingly well-adjusted sibling who escaped a dysfunctional and abusive family.
Warning: The language is pretty blue. I could have used up every **&^%$%^*)__(*^^%%$ on my computer trying to quote any of the lines. But the vocabulary and even some of fight scenes are all in good fun.
While all the roles are well acted, Kremer’s depiction of Sterling is head and shoulders above the rest. He grows poetic, even erotically stirred, when he describes seeing and touching rare stamps. Yet he isn’t averse to using brass knuckles to get what he wants.
Clumsy conniver Dennis is portrayed with exaggerated sleeze. Damaged sister Jackie and uptight sibling Mary battle believably throughout, as their complex relationship is revealed. Store owner Philip, too, is well played as a man with a murky past.
Set and sound design by Craig Saeger, costumes by Andrea Lenci-Cerchiara and lighting by Joe Beck are all well-done.
Of course, the play has a neat twist that I can’t reveal without spoiling the 11th-hour coup. All in all, Mauritius is both comic and captivatingly presented.

Final performances of Mauritius are at 8 p.m. today (Oct. 27) and 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 28) in the Anderson Center’s Chamber Hall. For ticket information, call 777-ARTS or visit theatre.binghamton.edu.

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