Playwright Theresa Rebeck loves a neat plot gimmick. Her plays (among the best known are Bad Dates and Omnium Gatherum) have a ripped-from-the-headlines quality and usually present a problem, a solution and a tidy conclusion. She's polished that formula and found a fascinating subject to envelope it in this 2007 play about a valuable stamp collection and the con artists who try to steal it from its naive owner. When Jackie (Leslie Patrick) goes through her dead mother's belongings, she finds a collection of rare stamps. A trip to a neighborhood philately expert (Brian Witkowicz) sets in motion a series of increasingly dangerous encounters with people who want those stamps at any price. Even Jackie's half-sister (Brandi Andrade) becomes a potential villain when she starts a fight over who really owns the collection. When a leather-jacketed smoothie (David Meglino) arranges a high-dollar but very under-the-table sale of the stamps to a rabid collector (Tony Martin, in a terrifically menacing performance), nobody is sure whom to trust and for how long. There's a new betrayal in every scene in this two-hour thriller. Echo Theatre director Terri Ferguson has assembled a tight ensemble cast and kept the pace brisk and enthralling. If there were a few more epithets, Mauritius could be the Glengarry Glen Ross of stamp collecting. As taut stage mysteries go, this one's a winner.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Starts: Sept. 17. Continues through Sept. 26, 2009