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Phoenix Theatre Gets Stamp of Approval For “Mauritius”

Phoenix Theatre's

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Phoenix Theatre's "Mauritius"

Mauritius is just a tiny Island off the coast of Africa in the southwest Indian Ocean. But travel brochures call it “the jewel of the Indian Ocean” with great scenery, beautiful beaches, wonderful deep-sea fishing and fantastic golf courses.

And, in the world of stamp collecting, Mauritius is famous for 2 of the rarest stamps in the World, the 1847 “Post Office” Penny Orange and Two Pence Blue. Those stamps are at the center of “Mauritius,”Theresa Rebeck’s atmospheric mystery drama named after the island.

It’s currently playing in a production that tautly directed by Dale McFadden at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis.

Allison Moody and Jamison Kay Garrison play Jackie and Mary. They’re a pair of half sisters who share a family stamp collection that may contain an authentic set of the Mauritius stamps. Jackie says the collection came to her as a gift from their mother. Mary says the stamps are hers from her grandfather. The two have twisted issues that span three generations. Some are discussed the darkest are hinted at.

The other three characters in “Mauritius” are Michael Shelton as Phillip the jaundiced stamp expert, Rock Mers as Sterling the big mover and Shane Chuvalas as Dennis, the gofer for both of them. All three simply inhale and exhale conniving avarice. They’re in a continually shifting dynamic, balancing power, knowledge and menace.

Playwright Theresa Rebeck is a veteran of theatre and of most of the New York based TV police and law dramas. Her expertise in quickly thumb nailing characters through minimal dialog is very much on display.

She’s also a writer with an ear for both the street formality of Damon Runyon in Dennis’s dialog and the more formal lecture style in a tour de force on bargaining and economics from Sterling.

Linda Janosko’s set, the grubby stamp store has just the right feel. Karen Witting’s costumes were so right for every one, that it was only later that I thought about them.

“Mauritius” is a cleverly plotted and nicely worked out mystery with interestingly developed characters. The Phoenix Theatre production keeps its dark tone and its quick pace at a level that had me thoroughly involved during the play and still thinking later about some of the issues.

Theresa Rebeck’s “Mauritius” continues at the Phoenix Theatre with Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances through April 4th

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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  • Greg Glendening

    Many thanks for this theatre review, which I heard at 11:00 a.m. Monday, March 3 — fresh as it gets, I guess. I had just fled from a country station, WHCC-FM (105.1 Hoosier Country), just hearing Joey + Rory’s “Cheater Cheater” — a shocker shocker to my more tradition-tuned, straightlaced country-music-loving sensibility (a car fry from the brute backwoods mind seen in B. Tarkington’s THE GENTLEMAN FROM INDIANA … though, on the other hand, Larry the Cable Guy’s “Health Inspector” is a really sweet movie, I think).

    I live to cook for a philatelist who collects stamps of the British Commonwealth, pre-1965. This philatelist of mine recently finished enjoying Patrick O’Brian’s THE MAURITIUS COMMAND (one in a series of novels including MASTER AND COMMANDER about the British Navy chasing down Napoleon’s navy … er, sorry, er, ROYAL Navy. At IU (here in Bloomington) last year (or so) the Lilly Library showcased O’Brian’s oeuvre (i.e., opus).

    http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/lilly/mss/html/obrian.html

    Anyway, thanks! I hope I can parlay your theatre review into a night at the Phoenix, Indy. That would be great!

  • Greg Glendening

    After “Mauritius”

    “Mauritius” skitters over some deep gulfs, gulps, I agree.
    Swell production, ’twas, las’ night at the Phoenix Theatre.
    Warren and I had a grand evening. I wish I could see it –
    my way to the play again — same cast, same everything.
    But that’s impossible. As all our words make clear to us.
    Eros, it’s people’s errors that make stamps valuable, our
    errors.

    What fathers say

    What my father used to say to me –
    our age, he’d say, stinks, full o’ vice,
    the Golden Age stayed fair and nice.

    What your father used to say to you –
    our age stays sweet, he’d say, so far,
    the Golden Age breathed worser air.

    What his father used to say to him –
    let be, he’d say, what won’t be clear,
    come what may, one owes none fear.

    — Juhan Liiv (1864 – 1913)

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