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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 8, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 41
Stamps worth millions at stake in Mauritius
Arts & Entertainment
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Stamps worth millions at stake in Mauritius

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Mauritius Seattle Public Theater Through October 24

What does the island of Mauritius have to do with stamp collecting? You get to find that out by attending the current production at Seattle Public Theater. This play, by Theresa Rebeck, focuses on a pair of half-sisters who barely know each other and who end up fighting over who owns the inherited stamp collection.

The production is tightly directed by Russ Banham with five strong performers: Mark Fullerton, Heather Hawkins, Joseph P. McCarthy, Carolyn Marie Monroe, and John Murray. A great two-sided set by Craig Wollam moves location by entirely hiding one whole set backstage as the other set is revealed. Lighting by Deanna Zibello and sound by Dustin Morache also add to the flavors of the locations.

Sisters Jackie (Monroe) and Mary (Hawkins) haven't seen each other for years and Mary, the older sister, finally comes back when her mother has died. Rebeck's characters are strongly drawn, but the script does present some fairly large holes that end up needing filling in by an audience member to make sense. The sisters, for instance, clearly have a lot of pain between them, but their lives are unrevealed. At one point, Jackie actually starts to explain what happened, and then gets interrupted and never finishes. That's a weirdly frustrating aspect of the play, and we end up making up our own story about how these women end up as clearly damaged as they are.

There is nothing of value among their mother's possessions except for a stamp collection. It turns out that it was collected by Mary's grandfather, who has no relation to Jackie. However, Jackie feels that since Mary never came back, Jackie really takes possession of it and wants to sell it to solve the money problems that plague from her mother's situation (also not revealed, except as a pile of bills).

Jackie takes the album to a dealer Philip (Fullerton), who decides he's sick of looking at bunches of stamp albums because people are convinced they've got something valuable. Another man, Dennis (Murray), who says he's not an expert, looks at it for Jackie and initially tells her that she has nothing of value. It turns out that he found stamps made for the island of Mauritius that are the 'crown jewels of philately' and potentially worth millions. He didn't want to let on to her that she had such valuable stamps.

Dennis sets Jackie up with Sterling (McCarthy), a buyer who is well aware of the rarity of the find and is salivating to get his hands on the prize. But what about Mary and her claim? Jackie clearly doesn't care if she sells something that doesn't quite belong to her.

There are many twists and turns before the end of the play, and a great monologue delivered by McCarthy about the art of the 'deal' and the different levels of interference that lawyers and tax collectors might impose if Jackie doesn't take his offer - the monologue sounds like business poetry. The mystery is well set up as to how much will be paid for the stamps and if the deal will go through.

The main theme of the play is 'worth' - self-worth, as in esteem, and what a family relationship is worth, and how much should be paid for the stamps themselves. Jackie longs for a new life and hints (remember, that's all we get) at the hardships she's had to face up till now. The stamps have different amounts of 'worth' to each of the other characters. Mary almost doesn't want to sell the stamps since they are all she has left of a grandfather who raised her. The stamp guys all want a piece of stamp history. The ambiguous ending leaves the worth of the evening up to you to determine.

For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call 206-524-1300.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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