Thursday, February 16, 2012

Opening Tonight: "Mauritius" at Heartland

If you've been hearing Theresa Rebeck's name in the news recently, it's probably because of "Smash," the new hit show on NBC about putting together a Broadway musical. Rebeck is the creator of "Smash," as well as the head writer on the show, and she has deep writing and producing credits for TV ("Law and Order: Criminal Intent," "NYPD Blue") as well as for the stage ("Seminar," currently on Broadway, "The Understudy," "The Scene.") Rebeck was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 as the co-writer of "Omnium Gatherum" with Alexandra Gersten.

"Mauritius," which opens tonight at Heartland Theatre, is prime Rebeck, featuring smart, flawed people with mixed motives behaving badly in pursuit of some irresistible object. In this case, what they all want is a possibly valuable stamp collection, one which may contain the so-called Mauritius Post Office stamps. These stamps, issued by the British Colony of Mauritius in 1847, were printed with the words "Post Office" instead of "Post Paid." There were only about five hundred printed of each of them -- one orange and worth a penny, the other blue and worth two cents -- and the printing mistake is what makes them so sought after in the world of stamp collecting.

That theme, of what we're worth, mistakes and all, recurs throughout the play. Or, as one of the characters in "Mauritius" puts it, "If only people were more valuable because of their mistakes."

Rebeck is very good at creating snappy, dynamic dialogue and the edgy characters to go with it. "Mauritius" features a set of five of those characters, from Mary and Jackie, the half-sisters who each think they should have dominion over the stamp album in questions, to Dennis, the smooth operator always on the lookout for a score, Phillip, owner of a sleepy stamp shop who can be roused to action if the right circumstances present themselves, and Sterling, the mysterious collector with a briefcase full of cash and a "gimme gimme" attitude to go along with it. 

Sandra Zielinski, Professor in ISU's School of Theatre, directs this Heartland Theatre production, with a cast that includes Sarah Stone Innerst as Jackie; ISU MFA candidate Kate McDermott as Mary; Kevin Paul Wickart as shop-owner Phillip; Andrew Head, a graduate of Bradley University's Department of Theatre Arts, as slippery Dennis; and Michael Pullin, a Heartland favorite who is also the resident Scenic Designer, as Sterling, the avaricious money man.

From L: Michael Pullin, Andrew Head and Sarah Stone Innerst

Photo credit: Jesse Folks

Performances of "Mauritius" open tonight with a special Pay-What-You-Can preview, followed by 7:30 performances on February 17-18, 23-25, and March 1-3, with 2 pm matinees on February 19 and 26 and March 4. A discussion about the play will follow the February 26th afternoon performance, with Alaine Winters, an expert in language from Heartland Community College's Communications Department; Loree Adams, from IWU's Department of Psychology; and director Sandra Zielinski appearing to discuss the issues presented by the play and take questions. This panel discussion is open to the public and free of charge.

For more information about Heartland's production of "Mauritius" or to make reservations, click here.

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