What determines the true value of a rare coin, baseball card or postage stamp? Likely, it’s the degree of desperation by the buyer or seller.
For that matter, what’s the value of happiness? Again, how desperate is the provider or seeker?
The current Anderson University/Wisdom Tooth Theater Project production of the play “Mauritius” asks the audience to transfer their insecurities into the size of a postage stamp — and sell them or keep them.
The play, which had a brief run on Broadway in 2007, is admirably staged by director Ronn Johnstone as a mystery thriller involving two angry sisters, a crusty stamp dealer and two controlling con men. [Photo on left: Aaron Ploof, left, as a shopkeeper, listens to a pitch for buying rare stamps from Eli Alvey and Jessie Wallace in the play "Mauritius," now at Anderson University's Byrum Hall. Photo credit: Scott L. Miley]
They all want a piece of the legendary Mauritius one-penny and two-penny stamps, actually printed in 1847 with “post office” instead of “post paid.”
Adding to the con men’s plots is confusion over the stamps’ ownership. Half-sisters Jackie, portrayed by Jessie Wallace, and Mary (Sarah White) grew up separately and with deep bitterness. Mary wants to hold onto the memory-filled stamps that were once owned by her grandfather; Jackie wants to sell them, as a way to rid herself of her past.
Jackie encounters three men interested in buying the stamps. Among them is the conniving Sterling, played with commitment by Eli Alvey. Though his character borders on smarmy, Alvey firmly carries across a devotion to stamps; you’d think he was the godfather of stamps.
Jessie Wallace, always passionate about her roles at AU, plays her conflicted character with dedication. Sarah White is best suited to the on-stage arguments with Wallace; her passion shines in those scenes.
Wallace, White and Aaron Ploof are seniors at AU, so this is their last play; the theater department will miss their wide range of talents.
White also designed the set, which perfectly reflects the slippery slope these characters are taking. With the back of the stage raised, the audience can see floor impressions of postage stamps (those stamps/insecurities really get into your head). Audience members will think the action and deceptions may just slide into their laps. (It could, too; a performer fell at Tuesday’s rehearsal.)
Of course, any reference to finding postage stamps in “Mauritius” can easily be a search for happiness, respect, search for familiar connections and other dreams. Some characters won’t find the answer they seek. But the audience can feel vindicated in the wrap-up finale and then, on the way home, ponder if they’d pay more for a rare stamp or valuable happiness.
- When: 7:30 p.m., today through Saturday
- Where: Byrum Hall, Anderson University
- Tickets: $12 for adults; $10 for seniors and military; $5 for AU students. To buy, call the box office at 641-4351.
—Scott L. Miley is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.