Before you go to see Convergence-Continuum’s production of “A Map of Virtue” you may wish to Google a couple of reviews or a synopsis to get an idea of what the play is about. It might help, but I doubt it very much. Every review I read was so full of…mumbo jumbo/ psycho babble…that it is clear that no one truly understands the nature of the plot much less what the playwright was trying to achieve. In short, the emperor has no clothes and the reviewers have no prose.
“A Map of Virtue” is the third and final play in convergence-continuum’s three-play series “The Menagerie Surreal,” which included such trips to the wild side as “Lobster Alice” in March/April and “Swimming in the Shallows” in May. The series is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
“Map” is simply one of those plays that defy reason no matter who produces it or acts in it. Even the title makes no sense. I will give credit for the cast at Con-Con for giving it the old college try but after 87 minutes you will probably find yourself scratching your noggin like the rest of us. For me, I kept having the song lyrics “take a trip and never leave the farm” swirling around my head.
The play begins with an interview with Sarah and Mark discussing how they met at a coffee shop when a large flock of birds suddenly appeared “a la Hitchcock”. Mark makes a run for the bus and that is that. They meet years later in Ireland (conveniently quite by accident) on a bench overlooking the coastline. Mark leaves a small wooden bird statue on the bench that he had stolen from a head master at a school where he and his classmates were sexually molested on a regular basis (by said headmaster). Sarah takes and keeps the small statue (which later upsets Mark). The statue itself is represented by a grown man who narrates as well as introduces the scenes with words that represent the human condition such as truth, curiosity and morality which for the most part has nothing to do with the scene itself.
The third time they meet is at a party. Sarah is married to Nate and Mark is in a relationship with Victor. June (a stranger) convinces them to come to “another party” out in the country (like the Catskills). At the house, she and her henchman Ray who when he puts on a bird mask does the total bidding of June (who calls him “You!”). They are given scant food over the next few days and manage to pry some of the black-out material on the window to see outside. An argument ensues when Sarah thinks that she sees children but Nate and Mark assure her that it is smoke from a fire. Mark is taken out and presumably tortured then returned and Victor comes in and saves the day by rescuing the trio. June and Ray spread gasoline around the room and end up burning themselves to death rather than face prosecution for kidnapping.
The rest of the play is about the foursome returning to the smoking ruins of the house where no children’s remains have been found but the little Meadowlark statue alas was left behind and destroyed (“liberated” as steam, smoke and ash) and the four are trying to get a grip on exactly what happened. I know the feeling. It was exactly my reaction to this high falutin’, psycho drama, totally off based example of avant-gàrbagé.
Here is where I have problems with the play. There are just too many coincidences and weird happenings in the scant 87 minutes. From the Alfred Hitchcock like bird attack, to the "chance" meeting in Ireland on a bench to meeting at a random party years later simply is not in touch with reality. I don't run into good friends this often. The play simply suspends believability in favor of drama and none of it makes any sense to me. If you do go to see this play, please let me know what your take is on it. I would love to hear from you.
Prude Alert: There is some language, frank same-sex discussion and talk of child molestations as well as kidnapping and possibly torture. Barring the fact that none of it makes any sense, those sensitive to the above and/or general weirdness should sit this one out.
Beef and Flubs: The best that I can decipher is that the cast really does an extraordinary job with this bird (brain) of a play. While being totally engaging, there is simply no clue as to “what it is all about” and the funny thing is it won an Obie for best off Broadway work…go figure.
Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): For all you pseudo-intellectuals out there wanting to impress someone, this is a great show to see and discuss for hours over wine coolers at some hip and happening saloon. For the rest of us “normal” theater patrons, it is a play that makes no sense whatsoever and probably never will. For me it showed how far the pendulum can swing away from relevant theater.
“A Map of Virtue” is directed by convergence-continuum’s Artistic Director, Clyde Simon. The play features company actors Lucy Bredeson-Smith, Robert Hawkes, Mike Majer, Jack Matuszewski and Eric Sever with newcomers to the Liminis stage Kat Bi and Logan Smith.
“A Map of Virtue” starts each performance at 8:00 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July 12 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., Cleveland, OH 44113 in the historic Tremont neighborhood. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for seniors and $10 for students. Reservations and information are available at convergence-continuum.org or 216-687-0074.