St. Helena’s Bruce Miroglio said he’s never played a really bad guy before, but the character Sterling is about “as bad as it gets. He’s abusive of women and people and everybody. I’m a bad guy.”
Miroglio stars with four others – Danielle Devitt, Kelly Berryman, Gabriel Frey and David Foushee – in the upcoming Upstage Napa Valley production of “Mauritius,” written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Sharie Renault. It opens its three-week run at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at St. Helena’s Grace Episcopal Church, 1314 Spring St.
“Mauritius” is a thriller and crime caper that centers around a stamp collection and particularly two stamps, printed in September 1847, from the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Both bear the likeness of Queen Victoria and on each, there is an error, thus making the stamps very valuable.
Rebeck is an American playwright, novelist and her work has appeared on the Broadway and Off-Broadway stages. She also writes for television’s “Law & Order” series. Says Renault of Rebeck: “She’s really into the cops and the criminals and the cons,” adding that she “really likes to look at how people behave badly.”
Renault says all five characters in “Mauritius” really behave badly, but added, “We’ve gotten to really love them.”
Devitt said her character, Jackie, is an unsentimental and damaged girl. “She’s had a lot of hard times in her life and she’s just trying to figure out a way to make her life better,” Devitt said. Jackie has had a pretty hectic upbringing, Renault said, and was nurse to her mom while she was battling cancer.
On her deathbed, Jackie’s mom gives Jackie her stamp collection, saying they might be worth something. In the collection are the two stamps from the island of Mauritius, worth millions of pounds.
Renault said the only glitch is that Jackie’s stepsister, Mary (played by Kelly Berryman), who believes the stamp collection belongs to her.
Renault said “Mauritius” is a twisted plot where “everybody is trying to get the one-up on everybody else.” She calls it “intriguing, fun and gritty,” adding there’s some language in it, “because cons speak in a certain way and there’s no way around it.”
Jackie takes the stamps to a store run by Philip, played by David Foushee. Much of the action of the play takes place in Philip’s store. Inside the store are Miroglio, whose sole ambition is to get the two stamps and another con man, Dennis, played by Gabriel Frey.
“Dennis is a kind of in-betweener,” Frey said. “He’s a con man, but not a heavy brute like Sterling,” although he’s playing a lot of different sides in the play, because he’s after a big score, hoping to snag the valuable stamps.
Berryman said Mary is a “well-trained prep school graduate who left her family in high school” and returns a dozen years later, after her mother’s death. “She’s helping with arrangements and going through the house and getting everything settled,” Berryman said.
She discovers the stamps – the ones she collected with her grandfather – and said Mary is “rightfully the owner of the stamp collection” and tries to “protect my interest, my legacy and my heritage.”
Miroglio calls Sterling “a nefarious sort of edges-of-society character with a bad temper and a lust for rare collectible stamps.” He added, “I really had to reach down in my acting chops to pull this off.” Miroglio has performed on stage during high school and got involved again when Renault called him to be in a production about a year ago.
When asked why people should come to the show, he said, “Cause it’s live theater, people are up there and it’s happening in front of you and there’s no do-overs, no retakes. It’s happening live and it’s exciting and it’s a fun play.”
Foushee said Phillip has owned the store “for way too long. He’s kind of in a rut, he’s stuck in his life, in a rutted mediocrity and (suffers from) low self-esteem.”
Foushee has been in community theater productions since he moved to Napa in 2002, including with the “late, great Dreamweavers.” He said the play’s witty dialogue is a reason for people to see the show. “The people saying the lines don’t know they are being witty and funny,” but they are, with the audience maybe “laughing at them, rather than with them.”
He said “Mauritius” is a very smart play that’s intelligently written. “There’s a lot of nuances in what’s going on, a lot of things happening beneath the surface,” Foushee said, “And I think it’s going to be riveting.”
Devitt’s involvement with community theater started about five years ago, when she played Amanda in “4,000 Miles.” She said, “It was really, really fun, I got to play this party girl. And I’ve done a number of productions with Shari and Upstage Napa Valley since.”
Berryman has been a part of community theater since 2012 and this is her fifth production in that time. Of “Mauritius,” she said, “It’s a great cast, with very strong actors and actresses. I’m definitely the weak link,” she added, laughing.
Frey said he’s been involved in community theater for about 15 years, up and down the Napa Valley, and has worked with a lot of fine actors and directors, including Renault.
He said people should come to the show for a number of reasons: Because the cast is great, there’s a lot going on, with lots of ups and downs and because the audience will never know what is going to happen. Although it is a mystery, Frey said there is comedy and laughter, “but also some moments where people are going to be shocked to see where this goes, where it heads.”
Frey said there’s a little bit of mild violence in the play, adding, “Some of these characters, you don’t want to mess around with. But, it’s all in good fun and I think people are going to have a good time with this show.”