Lycoming College's Department of Theatre presents the play "Mauritius" from Wednesday through Oct. 1. It is written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Associate Professor of Theatre N.J. Stanley.
The plot is rife with trickery and greed as five characters try to outwit each other in order to get their hands on two stamps from the island of Mauritius, which are considered the crown jewels of philately - stamp collecting in laymen's terms. At first glance, the plot sounds like a job for Ms. Marple, but the director insists it is not an old-fashioned mystery.
"It's very fast moving," Stanley, who has been teaching at Lycoming College since 2002, said. "It's exciting. The mystery involves [figuring out] whether they [the stamps] are legitimate in origin or fakes. The playwright takes you down this very twisted path where you never know who is telling the truth and who is lying. It's a very intricate plot."
JOHN?NEVILL JR./Sun-Gazette Correspondent
“Mauritius” will be performed Wednesday through Oct. 1 at the Mary L. Welch Theatre at Lycoming College. For tickets or more information, call the box office at 321-4048. The box office is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 6:30 p.m. until the final curtain on performance days.
Playwright Rebeck is an expert weaver of thrilling, tangled plots. She hones her pen writing for television shows, including "L.A. Law," "Third Watch," "Law and Order: Criminal Intent," and "NYPD Blue."
Why are the stamps so valuable? To a philatelist, there is no stamp more drool-worthy than the Mauritius Post Office stamp. In 1839, the little island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar, made One Penny and Two Penny stamps with Queen Elizabeth in the center and the words "Post Office" along the edge. The government made a mistake. The stamps should have read "Post Paid," not "Post Office."
The mistake and rarity of the Mauritius stamps have made them worth around $4 million.
The play features two estranged half-sisters, Jackie and Mary, who, after their mother's death, have inherited their philatelist grandfather's rare stamp collection containing the valuable Mauritius stamps.
Each sister feels entitled to the collection and both try to decide which dealer to trust.
Molly Collier, a 20-year-old junior from Cranford, N.J., plays the part of Mary. Collier has been acting since she was 5 years old. She remembers going to her older brother's rehearsals and wanting to be onstage. Collier, a theater major and photography minor, admits that Mary's character is hard to love.
"I didn't like Mary when I first read the play," Collier said. "I like a challenge. I thought it would be interesting to play the role. On the audition sheet, I put down the part of Mary because she is so different from me. She has just as much right as the other characters to the stamps, and I want the audience to see that I'm on her side."
Chase Mack, a 21-year-old senior from Mechanicsburg plays the role of Sterling, a rich, but shady character with a hot temper. Mack is a creative writing major and theatre minor who plans to get a graduate degree in creative writing. Under the direction of Stanley, Mack was able to embrace the role of Sterling, who he says is the least predictable person in the show.
"She [Stanley] is very passionate about theater and will bleed you dry if she needs to during rehearsal," Mack said. "But it's all for the betterment of the show. She really pushed the actors to get to know the characters, scripts, playwright's intentions and what is important to convey to the audience."
The play is what Stanley calls the equivalent of a best-selling novel, as it is one of the most produced plays in the country. It premiered on Broadway in 2007, where it enjoyed much success. After Broadway, "Mauritius" was performed in professional theaters around the country and is now being done by colleges and universities.
"I think it'll keep an audience intrigued," Stanley said. "In addition to good, thrilling theater, it also has some vital messages to say about how thin a line there is between good and bad behavior. These people cheat. They steal. They are violent. There are violent scenes in the play - it's got all the right ingredients."
The play will be the first of four faculty directed shows put on by Lycoming College in their standard season. They also will be producing a number of student-directed shows.
"Mauritius" has so many twists and turns that the audience will be second guessing themselves as to which of the five characters ends with the stamps when the curtain falls. Tickets, which are available by calling 321-4084, are $18 per person.