How do human beings determine what commodities have value? Consider philately, which is, basically, the collecting of government issued paper, stamped with images and monetized denominations that facilitate the conveyance of messages from one place to another. Yet, if a particular print run is rare, and/or faulty, its value—on the open market—can resemble a Stradivarius or even a Van Gogh. As is often the case in contemporary society, the dynamics of human relationships centered around such objects are instinctual rather than spiritual, with the greater good (or commonwealth) taking a back seat to greed.

Leah J. Watson as Jackie, Brian Landis Folkins as Dennis, and Jim Hunt as Sterling
(L to R) Leah J. Watson as Jackie,
Brian Landis Folkins as Dennis,
and Jim Hunt as Sterling
In Theresa Rebek's volatile Mauritius (named after a small island in the Indian Ocean that was among the first nations to issue stamps), half-sisters Jackie (Leah J. Watson) and Mary (Lindsey Pierce) do battle over a dead relative's seemingly valuable stamp collection. Experts Philip (Sam Sandoe), a philately shop owner, and Dennis (Brian Landis Folkins), a fixer, line up on each side, while a ruthless collector, Sterling (Jim Hunt), is ready to pounce on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a couple of neophytes to the cleaners.

The story has elements of a whodunit and a dark comedy, but there are few laughs and only the scent of a catharsis in Jackie's final decision and Dennis' concomitant sleight-of-hand. Up until then, it's a high stakes game with a lot of slippery bluffs from a quintet of characters that fail to evoke much sympathy. The most amusing aspect is Rebeck's quirky commentary on karma, criminals, and just desserts.

Regardless, director Rebecca Remaly's ensemble produces great fireworks: Watson's use of deeply held anger and desperation leaps out from Jackie in unpredictable ways; Pierce imbues Mary with an infuriating sense of entitlement and cool superiority; Folkins' Dennis prevaricates with engaging aplomb; Sandoe finds a well-hidden deviousness in Philip's motives, which weighs in with nice twist in the dénouement; Hunt's Sterling strikes fear in all with seething ruthlessness to back up his single-minded focus on the prize.

Boulder Ensemble Theatre's production of Mauritius runs through October 29th. 303-444-7328 or www.the

Bob Bows


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