I never thought I could be excited by a play about stamps. Tiny slips of paper that travel around the world adhered to envelopes carrying bills and love letters.
Some people find them fascinating enough to keep and collect, searching out specific stamps and paying ungodly amounts of money to own them. I'm certainly not one of those people. And I didn't really think I could be interested in -- enthralled by, even -- a play about those people.
But Heller Theatre's Mauritius is quite extraordinary. Written by Teresa Rebeck and directed by Erin Scarberry, the play, which first premiered on Broadway in 2007, is about a pair of half-sisters feuding over, at the surface, ownership of a family heirloom. At its core, though, Mauritius is a play about overcoming personal tragedy.
Jackie (Sara Wilemon) is a woman on the edge of desperation who makes her way to a stamp shop to determine the value of a collection given to her by her mother, who recently died of cancer. The store's owner, Philip (Mike McCarthy), refuses to even glance at her collection, but another fellow, Dennis (Jeremy Sheldon), gives them a look and discovers, without telling Philip, that two are considered the "holy grail of philately," misprinted, un-cancelled one- and two-cent stamps from a post office on an island off the coast of Africa (Mauritius).
He takes his discovery to a high-paying, lowbrow collector by the name of Sterling (Craig Walter), and the two devise a plan to obtain the steps for much less than their multimillion-dollar worth.
Their plan, and Jackie's, is foiled, though, by Jackie's half-sister Mary (Liz Masters), who insists the stamps, which belonged to her grandfather, are her own sentimental right.
It may not sound like the most intriguing plot line you've ever heard, but I assure you, this play is fantastic, thanks to Scarberry's careful direction, a fine script and nearly flawless acting by the entire cast.
Wilemon is truly brilliant. She arrives on stage in the first scene nervous, uncertain and stammering. And although she never quite loses her stammer, her character's evolution into a strong, self-assured -- if completely desperate -- woman is a pleasure to watch.
As is Sheldon, who, though his intentions are questionable, is so charming and charismatic, it's hard not to like and trust him.
The same could even be said for Walter. His character is shrewd, mean even, but still, there's something very likeable about the guy.
The opposite can be said for McCarthy and Masters, whose characters are not likeable, but who both offer outstanding performances. The cast is truly an ensemble, each member supporting the other, none outshining the rest.
Scarberry's direction is worth mentioning as well. Good direction is marked by the fact that the audience never has to wonder what the actors are doing or why they're doing it. Every movement, every gesture is justified and meaningful. Good direction ensures one never thinks about the direction at all while watching the play, because all of the pieces fall perfectly into place.
Nothing is questioned because everything works. Scarberry is a good director. She and her cast kept me so rapt that it wasn't until intermission that I even thought about taking a note. All I could do was enjoy the play.
And Mauritius is definitely a play worth seeing. Its run continues this weekend, Nov. 12-13 at 7:30pm and Nov. 14 at 2pm, at Heller Theatre at Henthorne, 4825 S. Quaker Ave. Tickets are $10 for adults, and reservations can be made by calling 746-5065. More information is available at hellertheatre.com.
Also On Stage
This weekend, Odeum Theatre Company opens After Miss Julie, written by Patrick Marber.
On the night of the British Labour Party's landslide victory in July 1945, Miss Julie, a daughter of privilege, finds herself among the servants at a celebratory party in the kitchen of her family's stately country home. Emboldened by England's shifting social structures, she engages in a dangerous dalliance with John, her father's handsome, well-read chauffeur.
Time Out New York called the play "a toxic tango that's sexy, dangerous and thrilling to watch," and Time magazine raved "Patrick Marber's After Miss Julie is the rare reimagining of a classic play that may actually improve on the original!"
The play runs Nov. 11-13 and 18-20 at 8pm and Nov. 14 at 2pm at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Charles E. Norman Theatre, 110 E. 2nd St. Tickets are $20, and they and other information are available at tulsapac.com.
Also at the PAC, in the Liddy Doenges Theatre, Oral Roberts University's theater department presents Crimes of the Heart Nov. 12-13 at 8pm and Nov. 14 at 2pm.
Set in Hazlehurst, Miss., Crimes of the Heart is a deeply touching, heartbreakingly funny exploration of an eccentric family's painful past.
Written by Beth Henley, the play follows Lenny, Meg and Babe Magrath, three sisters with secrets and insecurities. After the youngest shoots her abusive husband in a fit of rage, the women reunite at their family home to revisit old resentments and revel in their relationship.
The winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the play is presented by the ORU theater department and is directed by ORU director of theatre Courtneay Sanders, with scenic and lighting design by Chris Crawford. It stars Lindsey Kent, Kelsey Carroll, Candice Byrd, Cody Shelton, Renee Donohue, and Sam Hunt.
On Saturday, Nov. 13, in the Tulsa PAC's Chapman Music Hall, Tulsa Symphony Orchestra presents "The Virtuosity of Our Own," featuring violinist Rossitza Goza and violist Jeff Cowen. The concert features he music of Mozart, Ravel and Richard Strauss, and guest conducting is David Lockington.
Mozart composed "The Abduction From the Seraglio" at the request of Austrian Emperor Joseph II, who said its only flaws were that it was too good for the Viennese and there were too many notes. The symphony will play the overture to the opera and also Mozart's "Sinfonia Concertante" for violin, viola and orchestra.
The virtuosity of the entire orchestra continues with Ravel's "La Valse," inspired by the "Waltz King" by Johann Strauss. The concert closes with music from one of Richard Strauss' most enduring and light-hearted works, the comic opera Der Rosenkavalier. Tickets are $10-$65 at tulsapac.com.
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