by Rita Charleston
Based on Theresa Rebeck’s play, “Mauritius,” stamp collecting can be far more risky than one might ever imagine. Now being performed at Stagecrafters, 8130 Germantown Ave., the play revolves around two estranged half-sisters who, after their mother’s death, discover a book of rare stamps that may include the crown jewel for collectors.
One sister tries to collect on the windfall, while the other resists for sentimental reasons. Meanwhile, a seemingly potential sale becomes dangerous when three seedy, high-stakes collectors enter the sisters’ world willing to do anything to claim the rare find as their own.
One of those “seedy” men is 56-year-old Conshohocken resident Jeff Ragan, who takes the part of Sterling. According to Ragan, “Sterling is described as kind of murky, a man who loves stamps so much that he’ll do just about anything to get what he wants.”
Ragan, who has performed in numerous roles at various theaters in the area, says he’s never played such a villainous guy before, and so had to find a way to make Sterling come alive. “I took my cues from the dialogue and from the other actors in the show until I finally was able to portray him just right. I took my cues anywhere I could find them until I was able to bring this evil man to life.”
Ragan remembers being bitten by the acting bug when he was in the fourth grade and was in a play about George Washington and Betsy Ross. In addition to acting, his mother, a concert pianist, taught him to play the piano when he was just 5, and today Ragan continues to act as well as play and perform on the piano occasionally throughout the area. For some time, however, he was focused much more on music, playing keyboards in a band called Dick Tracy. He remembers, “We produced two albums and had regular air play on radio. We also toured all over Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and New Jersey.”
Not content with all that, Ragan picked up a cue at the age of 9 from an older cousin who was into magic. His cousin eventually lost interest, but Ragan kept going, continuing to study and perform magic to this day. “In fact, for the past 13 years, I have appeared as Dr. Magic, the host of the Stagecrafters Halloween Stories Nights. Kids come in costume, and I do magic and read scary stories to them. This year the event will be held on Oct. 23 and 24.”
Originally from Drexel Hill, Ragan began acting again after moving to Conshohocken and discovering Stagecrafters Theater around 1999. Branching out from there, he began performing at other local theaters as well, including the Forge Theater in Phoenixville and the Players’ Club of Swarthmore.
When “Mauritius” ends, Ragan and his wife Gretchen will be taking a Turner Classic Movie Cruise in November. Beyond that, the actor says, although he has no immediate theatrical plans, he’s hoping something great is waiting just around the corner. “Sometimes you get involved with a play that you feel isn’t going to make it. Still, you put in long, long hours, giving it all you’ve got until you and the rest of the cast try to get everything just right.
“Luckily, that hasn’t happened to me too often,” says Ragan, who, when he’s not on stage, works at the Boeing Company Helicopter division in Ridley Park as an administrator and has done so for the past 30 years. “As in everything in life, you just continue to do the very best you can.”
“Mauritius,” which got a rave review in the Local last week from Hugh Hunter, continues Oct, 8, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, call 215-247-8881.