|Photo by Sundstrom Images|
Sure Foot Productions in association with New Theatre, by arrangement with ORiGiN Theatrical, on behalf of Samuel French Inc. present MAURITIUS, by Theresa Rebeck, at the New Theatre, King St, Newtown, 12th - 29th July.
MAURITIUS is an American play written by Theresa Rebeck in 2007. Ms Rebeck has quite a catalogue of plays and a history of writing for television and the winner of many awards, including the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award (that is the Edgar of Edgar Allen Poe).
So, with the Edgar Award given to Ms Rebeck, it is no surprise that MAURITIUS unravels as a well made suspense thriller. It is built around an inherited Stamp Collection, that may contain some rare, and hence, valuable stamps and the tensions between half-sisters as to who owns them, and the introduction of three men with obsessive philatelic interests and the possibility of much money profit.
The sisters are hotly hostile to each other and these men are cult-eccentric and, resultantly, socially dangerous to be around when they all want the same thing (think, the pursuit of THE MALTESE FALCON?!!), and give personas to this delicious 'plot' that ratchets up circumstances with a line-by-line tension of enthralling fun. The play supplies the simple pleasure of plot and character that entertains with clear storytelling structures. MAURITIUS, is a well-made play, that some may believe is 'old-fashioned' but is as satisfying as it maybe unfashionable for those post-modernist Writers and Directors that seem to have held some theatres, in our city, in their thrall - to ransom - over the past few years.
But, Ms Rebeck does not just entertain us, but with subtle, deft skill writes with an acute and gentle observation of the human frailties of greed and its penchant to violence to solve its problems in the morass of the ethical values of our present evolving society - if, one is prepared to take a pause from just the pleasure of the 'thriller' experience and reflect a little deeper. Like, perhaps, David Mamet's AMERICAN BUFFALO, the moral content of MAURITIUS is larger than the bare context of what we see and hear on the stage.
Most of the company of actors, under the Direction of Richard Cornally, give very good performances: Emma Louise, as a complex and ambiguous Mary; Andy Simpson, an arrogant, supercilious but bored Philip; Peter-William Jamieson, as Dennis, a 'grifter' of charming and seductive powers. Brett Heath gives an outstanding characterisation as the dangerously obsessed stamp collector, Streling - the physical poise and centred, coiled menace is matched with a cleverly articulated vocal dialect of a hugely sinister weight - it is a most impressive creation (dialect coach, Emma Louise). The weakness in the production is that of Kitty Hopwood who in playing Jackie, the volatile and 'damaged' youngest sister, tends to play a virtual one-note hysteria with an up-tight physical tension that blocks any possibility to reveal the circumstances/subtleties to justify the actions of her character. Ms Hopwood is angry and offers not much else for us to give empathy.
The Set Design of the production (Rhys William Nicolson) is essentially drab, while the costumes do not seem to have been Designed to reveal character but rather seem to be the clothing of the actors.
MAURITIUS, is a a good story, with interesting characters, and a moral spine with some worthwhile social critique - one doesn't get off scot-free with just base entertainment, when Ms Rebeck writes. I had avery good time.