Saturday, April 4, 2009

review - Mauritius


by Theresa Rebeck
directed by Jessica Kubzansky
Pasadena Playhouse
through April 26
From the moment the curtain rises on Mauritius, you know you are in for something unusual. With its exotic lighting cues and darkly forboding musical sounds, the tone is set for a spellbinding experience. As in David Mamet's American Buffalo, we are led realistically into a quaint little collectors' shop, this time not for coin collectors but rather for philatelists. The action of trade-off begins immediately in the first scene, and then, little by little, characters and their motivations are made clear. No boring first act setups here; the bottom line has top priority. Rebeck's gripping tale, Kubzansky's dynamically focused direction and a ferociously committed ensemble make Mauritius, now at the Pasadena Playhouse, a first-class stunner.
And what an education about stamps! Never having collected, I didn't know the first thing about their value, particularly those with errors, but I do now. There is much to value in this little play, which cannot be classified a thriller, as murder is not an issue, but it is nonetheless, thrilling, as passions collide and explode quite feverishly. Twists and turns, moreover, are abundant and will keep you riveted 'til the end.
The cast is super. Kirsten Kollender as Jackie plays an innocent with moxie who, due to personal pressures, turns into one savvy and smooth operator. Her performance is excellent, as are those of Ray Abruzzo as the slick and despiccable Sterling, John Billingsley as the jaded and unsympathetic Phillip, Chris L. McKenna, funny and likeable as the pawn Dennis, and Monette Magrath so fine as the nasty and selfish sister Mary. All get a chance to show both good and bad sides of their personality.
Tom Buderwitz' rotating set is a mesmerizing antique, especially Jackie's and Mary's mother's dilapidated homestead.
When you first read that this is a play about stamps, it may not grab you, but believe me, you don't want to miss it! It's as surprising, engrossing and entertaining as good theatre can get.
5 out of 5 stars


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