MAURITIUS at the Magic

Rod Gnapp as Sterling and Zoë Winters as Jackie in Mauritius at Magic Theatre. Photo by www.davidallenstudio.com


MAURITIUS by Theresa Rebeck, directed by Loretta Greco. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, San Francisco, CA 94123. 415-441-8822 or www.magictheatre.org. May 23 - June 14, 2009.


THE ART OF A SCAM IN A MAMET MODE


Theresa Rebeck is a much-honored writer and it may not be fair to equate her work with that of David Mamet. However, the construction and characters in this West Coast premiere of Mauritius brings back memories of Mamet’s American Buffalo. Both display the art of the scam with some characters trying to outfox others. In the case of American Buffalo the scam centered on a rare coin. In Mauritius the scam involves the extremely rare one- and two-penny “post office” stamps issued in the former British colony of Mauritius.


In the opening scene, mousey and hesitant Jackie (Zoe Winters) brings a stamp collection to the office of a dealer and well recognized appraiser, Phillip (Warren David Keith) to ascertain their worth. To her comment, “With my luck they probably are fake.” Phillip blurts “. . . you don’t know anything about stamps.” Phillip gruffly declines to examine the stamps. Dennis (James Wagner) a young man who frequents the shop, befriends Jackie, examines the stamps, and from his facial expression there is instant recognition of their worth. Collection in hand, Jackie leaves, and an inkling of the scam is in place.


In scene two Jackie is sorting out the contents of the apartment where she has cared for the deceased invalid mother. Half-sister Mary (Arwen Anderson), who had deserted the home years ago, has returned to claim her share of the estate. Although, their mother-in-common gave the stamp collection to Jackie, there is no will and Mary claims ownership because it belonged to her grandfather, no blood relation to Jackie. Dennis, having followed Jackie home, arrives, smoothly insinuates himself into their confidence assuring them he will find a well-heeled buyer. Part two of the scam.


Scene 3, Dennis meets with Sterling (Rod Gnapp), a fanatic philatelist with demonic desire to own the pair of stamps. The trio of Jackie, Sterling and Dennis, arrange to meet with Phillip for authentication. Shrewd Phillip, sensing a windfall, has conned Mary, since she is the true owner of the treasure, into playing a part in his version of a scam,. All the parts are in place and Loretta Greco creates a directorial gem as she maneuvers the combatants as if they are in a boxing ring using physical action with Rebeck’s verbal thrusts and parries.

One might question the marked change in personality displayed by Jackie from scene one to the final scene but Rebeck has perfected her craft having won an Emmy Award for her writing for TV’s Hill Street Blues knowing when to strew clues into the dialog. During the conversations between Jackie and Mary there are unfinished sentences that implicitly suggest that Jackie has endured much abuse and is a tower of strength behind the bland exterior.


Zoe Winters depiction of Jackie’s blossoming personality and hidden strength matches Rod Gnapp’s powerful histrionic version of demonically possessed philatelist. The versatile Warren David Keith more than holds his own in the battle of wits and lies. James Wagner adds depth to his role as a silver tongue con artist. Greco is to be admired for her direction as she keeps the characters in balance never allowing one to overpower the others. The play is well worth seeing.

Running time 2 hours and 10 minutes with intermission
Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.TheatreWorldinternetmagazine.com