SOTA’s “Mauritius”, a great intro to this year’s production roster

By Farah Bassyouni Oct2,2023

Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Theatre Arts kicked off its 2023-2024 season with Theresa Rebeck’s “Mauritius”, with performances on September 22–24. “Mauritius” follows five increasingly desperate characters: Jackie (Valerie Martire), Mary (Molly Clemente), Dennis (Kameron Rojas-Shueneman), Philip (Baxter Konstans) and Sterling (Evan Carlson) as they compete for control of the highly valuable and extremely rare one  and two Penny Mauritius postage stamps, printed in 1847. These pieces, as stated in the play, are the highly prized crown jewel of any philatelist’s collection (philately: the collection and study of postage stamps). 

The major conflict of the show arises from the long-standing resentment between half-sisters Mary and Jackie. Mary, the elder of the two, wishes to keep the stamps together as a familial heirloom in her care or the care of a museum to secure the legacy of her paternal grandfather, the original collector of the stamps. Jackie, on the other hand, fights tooth and nail to sell the stamps to Sterling, a mysterious man of means who offers a large, unnamed sum of cash in exchange for the slips of paper. 

Rebeck’s writing creates a world where anyone at any given time may be lying. Sometimes the audience is let in on the ruse, but the play takes even more dramatic turns when the audience is left as in the dark as the characters as to what secret dealings have been made. 

Tom Quinn’s direction of “Mauritius”  brought an understanding of what it means to bring dramatic tension to the next level. At times, the unraveling of the characters onstage created tension so thick it could be cut with a knife. In addition, the staging of the show in a thrust-stage style, with theater goers on all three sides of the performers, can create difficulties, leaving the sides of the audience neglected in favor of “playing to the front.” This was not an issue in “Mauritius”; even watching from the left side on Saturday night’s performance, the actors never felt blocked by scenery or other performers onstage. The piece felt accessible, which gave the audience a greater gateway into the world of the play. Filled with fabulous performances that perfectly complemented Rebeck’s script, Mauritius truly was a wonderful way to start off the semester. 

Upcoming offerings from the School of Theatre Arts:

    • Turn That Thing Around, Phoenix Theater, October 6, 2023
    • Carrie: The Musical, Jerome Mirza Theater, October 11-15, 2023
    • Super Scary Stories, Phoenix Theater, October 31, 2023
    • The Duchess of Malfi, Jerome Mirza Theater, November 15-19, 2023
    • 36 Questions, Phoenix Theater, November 4-5, 2023
    • Odd & The Frost Giants, Phoenix Theater, November 11-12, 2023

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