Theatre Review: ‘Mauritius’ at Blackfriars Theatre

Did you know there is a seedy underbelly of the stamp collecting world? Me neither. The plot of this play sounded almost like a spoof and I wondered what I was in for. I invited a good friend to come along for the ride. It turns out her father was an avid stamp collector. She was intrigued.

The play centers on a young woman named Jackie, played by Fiona Criddle, whose mother recently died and left her a stamp collection, and apparently a boat-load of debt. Jackie knows nothing about stamps and ends up turning to three men who possess varying intensities of dubious and nefarious intent toward Jackie and her stamps. Enter the estranged half-sister, Mary (Stephanie Sheak), who believes the stamps belong to her.

In this play emotions run high when it is discovered that there are some insanely valuable stamps in the collection. The most dangerous of the three men, Sterling (J. Simmons), is a menacing figure who is willing to pay a high price for the stamps. Dennis (Danny Hoskins), is a slippery operator who sees a potential payday if he can manipulate Jackie and control Sterling. Philip (Jeff Siuda), the professional philatelist, has some sort of dark history with Sterling that helps him ease into an unethical position. The hard-to-pin-down, Mary, is difficult to like. She tries to manipulate Jackie, and no one quite believes she wants the stamps for their sentimental value.

Ms. Criddle’s performance has depth and credibility portraying someone who has had to deal with trauma and desperately needs a way to emerge from its aftermath. Mr. Hoskins  sensitively handles his character as he vacillates between wanting a big payout and beginning to care for Jackie.

During the play I wondered if my companion’s knowledge of stamps helped her see the twists in the plot before I did. Because the story had so much to do with the psychological and emotional states of each character, knowing about stamps was not much of an edge. There are many mysterious sub-texts hinted at and not fully explained. The parallels between human lives and rare stamps are clearly drawn in how their flaws, mysteries, back stories, and desirability are all a little nebulous–and the effects of which can change with time and memory.

All in all, it was a great opening night performance in a cosy inviting theatre.

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 min, plus a 15-minute intermission

“Mauritius” runs from March 22 – April 7 at Blackfriars Theatre in Rochester NY. For more information, click here.