Whether it's the 1963 Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn thriller Charade, the 1985 Richard Pryor comedy Brewster's Millions or the more esoteric (and rarely shown) Fabian Bielinsky award-winner, Nine Queens, postage stamps have long been a key plot element in movies and plays.
They're small, they're easily overlooked, and, mostly, it takes an expert to know whether they're worth 44 cents or $44 million.
Still, when that rare multimillion dollar stamp comes into play, it's often followed by skullduggery, scams and even murder.
So it is in Mauritius, playwright Theresa Rebeck's tale about the Holy Grail of philatelists, two misprinted 1847 stamps from Mauritius Island believed to be among the 30 or fewer still in existence. How valuable? In 1993, a cover with two of these stamps sold for $3.8 million, reportedly the highest price ever paid for any philatelic item.
The Hat Trick Theatre Productions version opens today at the Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center.
In it, two half sisters have come back home after their mother's death and found two of the Mauritius stamps among their late mother's collection.
So, who gets them? Angry young Jackie (Megan Perry), who wants to turn a quick buck on them? Or emotionally distant Mary (Joanna Sycz), who thinks they should be sold to a museum?
Enter the vultures — three scheming men, each determined to get the stamps by hook or by crook, or, in desperation, fair and square. There's Philip (Rusty Gillespie), the snobby stamp shop owner; Dennis (Thom McColgan), a bystander who realizes the value of the stamps and schemes to get them; and Sterling (Robb Lee), a disgusting villain with a foul mouth and a fanatical lust for the stamps.
There are as many switchbacks and betrayals as in Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels, though Mauritius may not have the laughs nor be as neatly tied up.