Right! After a good long spell of being pretty obviously lazy with this blog, I’m gonna try and rack up some solid theatre hours this week and spread the love about some cool shows, like I’m damn well supposed to. I’ve been slipping lately, I know, I know…but in my defense I AM getting pretty old and have begun creaking quite badly when I move. Thank goodness I’m still so pretty.
First stop this week was a long overdue return to the Ottawa Little Theatre, shamefully my first visit this season (their 101st, by the way…how many seasons of community theatre have YOU successfully produced? That’s what I thought). So after a couple hours killing time at another long-neglected hangout, the Bytowne Cinema…by the way, Jason Bateman’s BAD WORDS totally fucking rocks… I headed on up to the OLT for their latest offering, Theresa Rebeck’s MAURITIUS. Directed by Chantal Plante, which is usually a very good sign, and staring a few familiar faces, I was looking forward to this one, as good a return to the OLT for me as any I could hope for.
The story dives headlong into the wild and wacky, and apparently occasionally violent world of the philatelist, aka the stamp collector. Now I personally do not collect stamps, and have thus decided that stamp collecting is stupid. I mean, comic books, that’s perfectly acceptable, but STAMPS? Get real.
But I digress…the stamps are just the medium in this one, not the message, which is a lot more fun. See, Jackie (Laura Hall) has come across some potentially rare as balls stamps in her late Mother’s estate, and wants jaded expert Phil (Lawrence Evenchick) to give them an appraisal. When he brushes her off, mysterious stranger Dennis (Chris Cottrell) lends his eye, and likes what he sees…quite a bit, in fact. After relating the news of his potentially incredible find to his imposing benefactor, bazillionaire supervillain and stamp afficionado Stirling (John Collins), he stalks Jackie to her home, where she’s busy squabbling with her stuffy half-sister Mary (Cindy Beaton) about various sundry issues, not the least of which is which of them actually owns those goddamn stamps. Before long, everyone is hatching their own plans about what to do with the ‘crown jewels’ of the collection, a pair of ultra-rare stamps from Mauritius with the wrong wording printed on them…it’s the errors that make them more valuable, as we’re told, just as it’s thee flaws in all these characters that make them so damn engaging.
MAURITIUS is a very solid thriller, with a lot of humour to buoy it throughout, and plenty to recommend it. Right away, that set from designer Graham Price is some sweet, sweet business, and holy Hell that soundtrack..? I’m assuming sound guy Bob Krukowski gets the props for the music in this show, and it is serious cool, setting the mood perfectly. And then, oh yeah, the cast. Cindy Beaton’s Mary is so maddeningly superior and demeaning it’s a thing of beauty, and Evenchick’s has-been philatelist Phil is solid throughout, with one particularly wonderful moment that comes to mind. And Chris Cottrell’s Dennis is intriguing throughout, keeping you guessing as to just what kind of a man he really is, as opposed to what he wants you to think he is.
It really comes down in the end to two performances, tho…John Collins’ terrifyingly commanding Stirling, a power-obsessed alpha male quite obviously willing to do whatever he needs to get what he wants. Dude just oozes danger when he walks on set. And Laura Hall’s Jackie is perfectly riveting, practically seething throughout the entire show with mute (and sometimes not so much) rage, desperation and conviction…both opposite and equal to the calculating Stirling. When they finally meet in the second act, it’s fucking GOLD. And yes, I’m using a bit more of my salty language in this post that in recent years, pardon, but the show kind of brings it out of you. Way more f-bombs in this production than the average OLT joint, but each one feels well-earned. So there.
This is a fun, cool, and offputting show, an exercise in tactics as power shifts rapidly from character to character, alliances rise and fall, crosses are doubled and the stakes rise much higher than anyone anticipated. That all this firepower is over two tiny scraps of paper is almost the icing on the cake. If you wanna get your thrill on, you won’t do much better in Ottawa these days than checking this one out. So check it out already! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)