David Mamet Land is a place inhabited by violence, unsavory characters and laced with profanity. Theresa Rebeck's play is an homage to him, especially to his classic "American Buffalo." But unlike Mamet, Rebeck's conflicts are set into motion by a gutsy, strong-willed young woman, and her drama builds to a fever pitch as four other unsavory characters battle for control over a pair of valuable stamps.
Rebeck explores the theme that value is found in the imperfections. Referring not only to the blemished rare postage stamps from the titular tiny African island, but also and most especially to the characters themselves, with protagonists Jackie and Dennis as the best examples. The girl is possibly a thief and the guy is a definite con artist, yet both reluctantly unite around their obsession with the priceless collection.
Jackie's (Anne Adams) mother has just passed away, so she attempts to pay off her mountain of debts and make a few bucks for herself by selling the stamp collection she found in the attic. Little does Jackie realize its value or how difficult it's going to be to persuade Mary (Suzanne Lang), her conniving half-sister, to relinquish her claim to the collection. When Jackie visits a seedy little stamp shop in order to have Phillip (Gary Houston) appraise the collection she meets Dennis (Dan Kuhlman), a charming and earnest young guy who also works for Sterling (Lance Baker), a menacing, wealthy thug who always gets what he wants.
But really, you should see this part-mystery and part-action drama play for the talented acting ensemble. Rebeck's dialogue is stimulating, intelligently savvy and full of unexpected humor. Her characters are realistic, strong-willed adversaries for what befalls them: An uncompromising and defiantly courageous Ms. Adams provides a strong foil for Ms. Lang's snobbish, loquacious stepsister and Baker's dangerously intimidating Sterling. Enigmatic Dennis sticks to wheeling and dealing throughout the play, and Gary Houston's smug, quietly understated Phillip makes you want to smack him. However when the fireworks start, take cover. Stamp collecting has never been so dangerous.