The plot of “Mauritius” will seem familiar to any family that's squabbled over a relative's estate.
Two characters in the play are half sisters who battle over their late grandfather's stamp collection. The relationship between the sisters, Jackie and Mary, is interesting. The look inside the stamp world is also enjoyable, to a point. But the Northern State University black box production, which opened Wednesday night, also contains more than enough unpleasantness.
Unlike many plays, “Mauritius” grabs you from the beginning. It's also fun to watch characters who are passionate about anything, including stamp collecting.
The script, written by Teresa Rebeck, includes numerous witty exchanges.
Philip, the owner of a stamp shop played by Robert Micciulla, denies that he knows Dennis (Kody Kyriss), who spends a lot of time hanging about his shop. “I barely know him. He's an acquaintance at best,” Philip tells Jackie, played by Haley Hubbard.
Long after emotions erupt and anger ensues, Mary, played by Sarah Honerman, tells her sister, “I'm sorry, but I'm beginning to think some real questions need to be raised about your character.”
As a deal for the stamps develops, one wonders just how far Dennis and his partner, Sterling, will go. One also wonders if Sterling, a tough guy played by Tyson Meyer, will simply bully the stamps out of Jackie. Audience members will also suspect that some of the characters might be pulling a con.
A reviewer who described “Mauritius” as “a thriller about a stamp collection” was guilty of exaggeration. The show has some suspense, and it has things to say about materialism and family dynamics, but it is not a thriller.
The role of Sterling is a major problem for the play. The character may be interested in stamps, but he’d be more comfortable consorting with the mob. Yes, he represents danger, so his character is necessary. Although he doesn’t really negotiate, he’s a clever negotiator. In the second act, his presence is more crucial. But overall, the brutish philatelist talks way too much.
“Mauritius” has as much profanity as an R-rated film. To bring an innocent young stamp collector to this show would be a mistake.
The best actor in the five-character play is Hubbard, whose red hair matches her strong-willed character. In her arguments with Sterling's confederate, it's funny the way she bitterly pronounces “Dennis” at the end of a sentence.
Micciulla is also very good in his Northern theater debut. Almost all of his time onstage, interestingly, is spent behind the counter of his stamp shop.
Joshua John Frachiseur did both the direction and the scenic design. The world of stamps dominates the show. The five floor spaces are covered with reproductions of stamps, with two more leaning at either end. Inside your program, you will find a canceled stamp.
What: A “sinister comedy” presented by Northern State University.
Where: Johnson Fine Arts Center Black Box Theater.
Remaining performances: At 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday
Admission: Tickets are $12 for adults and $11 for seniors and non-NSU students. Tickets are available in the NSU bookstore from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 605-626-2563.
Tickets are $10 for American News members.