A review of Ari Stidham’s and Synthetic Unlimited’s “Mauritius,” written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Ari Stidham.
I love outdoor theatre. It’s even more appealing lately because of covid of course, but Ari Stidham’s “Mauritius” isn’t just a play they decided to do outside. It’s far, far more thoughtfully conceived than that.
The play is about a young girl, Jackie, who inherits her grandfather’s stamp collection. After her mothers death and while she is going through the house, she finds it again, remembering that her mother always told her it was valuable and wanted her to have it. Jackie’s mother’s estate is in total disarray, she was sick for a long time and bills are owed, and there is no will to be found. Yet, it’s the arrival of Mary, Jackie’s half sister, that really puts the pressure on. Mary was her grandfather’s favourite and inherited his entire estate. She’s rich because of it and Jackie and her mother got nothing.
It’s an especially grim reunion between the sisters since Mary seems to consider the stamp collection hers and clearly has only shown up to take possession of it. Clearly, theres’s plenty of bad blood between them. Jackie’s father was abusive and Mary took the opportunity to leave at 16 when she could, abandoning her sister to his rage. Tricky stuff.
Undeterred, Jackie visits her local comic book store looking for help with the stamps and is directed to Philip’s stamp store, where she is told she will find help and an assessment of the collection’s worth.
Philip is crusty and tired of people expecting free advice only to take their collections elsewhere for sale. But, Jackie does find something, Dennis. A collector himself, he is in Philip’s store when Jackie arrives and, after Philip turns her downs, offers to look it over himself. He finds something astonishing and pursues Jackie to try and make a deal for his voracious mentor, Sterling, a rich guy with bad impulse control, a monstrous ego and absolutely no boundaries.
The story unfolds from there. Yet, considering this really is a story about stamps, there’s an awful lot of action and intrigue and even some very well-choreographed fights!
Everyone actor in “Mauritius” is absolutely excellent. Lots of pent-up resentments, old vendettas and subversive sub plot to keep the actors on their toes. They handle it all with depth and drama, humour and ruthlessness, and a relentless boiling tension that lets us know this is all bound to end badly.
I won’t tell you how it ends of course, but I urge you to find out. Ari Stidham has created a gorgeous stage on the front terrace of a house in Tarzana. It’s a walled front garden in a dark and quiet street so you could be anywhere on earth and it really has that mercurial vibe. He has brilliantly utilised the garage as half the set, which is a stroke of genius. So, outdoor theatre becomes “garage theatre.” I hope he starts a trend. The whole set up is relaxed and comforting and playful, which is so necessary given the situation we are still in. But, the audience is masked up and being outside makes such a difference to the whole experience. Like I said, I love outdoor theatre!
However, outdoor theatre also has to be good. And this is really, really good. “Mauritius” is intelligent, funny, beautifully paced and profoundly clever. The actors outdo themselves. They are engaging and believable and obviously loving every second of this strange and compelling story.
The music is wonderful too, it really adds to the atmosphere of the piece. Ari Stidham and Synthetic Unlimited really have managed to create this magical space where you feel totally disconnected with reality…for which we should all be eternally grateful!
I loved it, can you tell? There’s a lot of dark and light, good and bad and you really root for Jackie. If you want a glimpse into a moment in someone’s life where they need to win so badly, just for once, and big, then this is your chance. “Mauritius” is absolutely electric. Bravo!!
Labor Day weekend. September 4, 5, and 6 at 8pm.
(Monday’s final performance doors open at 7pm with coffee and cookies, curtain at 8pm.)
Seating is limited to 14 seats per performance.
Theresa Rebeck’s “Mauritius” presented at a private residence in Tarzana, CA.
Marcelina Chavira (Jackie)
Elijah Cho (Dennis)
Grace Fae (Mary)
Dom Huynh (Sterling)
Jimmy McCammon (Philip)
Ari Stidham (Director)
Jimmy Mccammon (Producer / Technical Director / Philip)
Genah Redding (Producer)
Paul Roberson (Producer)
Original music by Colt Coleman