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Delight for philatelists at TheatreWorks

By Joanne Greco Rochman, Republican-American


After seeing Theresa Rebeck's "Mauritius" you may not be so quick to dispose of that stamped envelope great-aunt Penelope sent your great-grandmother from the boondocks.

Once you learn that a tiny piece of paper (aka a postage stamp) can be worth millions, you'll look at stamps more closely — even if you are not a philatelist.

When half-sisters vie for their mother's old stamp collection, family values become unglued. All civility and manners go out the door when high-strung desperately broke Jackie and calm, cool, and calculating Mary start tugging at the stamp album. Add to this conflict the animosity between Phillip, an expert on stamps, and Sterling, a wealthy and possessive collector, and sparks fly. Hip con man Dennis finds everyone in the same room.

While Sonnie Osborne does a fine job of directing this tension-driven drama, and the talented ensemble performs quite well, there are some problems that are not easy to ignore in the production and the play. For instance, when it becomes apparent to both sisters that they know the true value of the two Mauritius stamps, it's too far fetched to image either one of them letting it out of their sight, or tossing the album casually onto the couch or table. Rebeck loses credibility when she sends desperate Jackie by herself into a den of thieves while carrying a multi-million dollar stamp collection in her hands.

No woman is that stupid.

There are a few other problems that I probably would not have noticed if my husband, a former stamp collector, hadn't pointed them out to me. For instance, no real collector would ever touch a fragile old stamp. Nor would a stamp collector paste a couple of prize stamps on a page with a bunch of other stamps.

Add to this that the production crew, who did such a fabulous job with the revolving set, could have pasted a few stamps on a page instead of letting the audience see an obviously photocopied sheet of stamps.

It's also impossible to watch this play and not recall David Mamet's "American Buffalo." Ironically Mike Ritts, who plays the stamp expert, played the coin expert in the Thomaston Opera House Arts Center production of "American Buffalo." The scenarios are so much alike, although Rebeck adds the familial edge. Aaron Kaplan as the dashing Dennis is quite the rogue. Mike Ritts seals his character Phillip with arrogance, while Viv Berger as the compulsive collector seasons his savoir faire with a pinch of smugness. Arielle Uppaluri delivers a knock-out performance as the down and out sister, while Tracey Hurd quietly, yet just as definitively, leaves her mark.

Glenn Couture's revolving set is quite exceptional and works like a charm moving from one locale to another. This is accented by Scott Wyshynski's site appropriate lighting design. Overall, this New Milford Theatre Works production is a most entertaining work in spite of a few short comings, and definitely worth seeing. Rebeck fans will not be disappointed. The production runs through June 26. Box office: (860) 350-6863.

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