Theresa Rebeck's characters may not be the sort you'd want to sit next to at a dinner party, but they're certainly amusing fodder when observed from afar. Whether it's the abandoned wife in The Water's Edge, the self-absorbed New Yorkers in The Scene or the obsessed and occasionally maniacal philatelists who get involved with two feuding half-sisters and their valuable stamp collection in her latest play, her dramatists personae aren't especially likable, but they are fascinating and frighteningly real in their rancor.
Take poor young Jackie (Alison Pill), the protagonist of Rebeck's first Broadway venture, who's desperate to pawn a family stamp book to wipe out her recently deceased mother's debts. She has to contend with a haughty sister (Katie Finneran) who considers the stamps to be hers alone; a venom-spewing philatelist (Dylan Baker) who regards her as a lower form of life; a hustler (Bobby Cannavale) who wants to rip her off; and a shady "businessman" (F. Murray Abraham) who aches to own two extremely valuable stamps in the collection, the One- and Two-Penny Post Office from the island of Mauritius.
A suspense maven who writes great repartee, Rebeck carefully plants clues to her characters' intensely emotional pasts without revealing all their secrets. She's created another feisty female in Jackie, whose rough upbringing propelled her into adulthood too soon. In Pill's hands, she’s a lamb barely suppressing a lion's rage.
John Lee Beatty's dark, foreboding sets evoke menace and danger, even if Doug Hughes' direction doesn't always capitalize on it. But with unexpected twists, finely wrought characters and nicely delineated performances, this play might not be an extremely precious commodity, but it's certainly a worthy creation.
By Diane Snyder
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F. Murray Abraham, Dylan Baker, Bobby Cannavale, Katie Finneran, Alison Pill
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