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“A Map of Virtue” confounds at convergence continuum

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)


Every once in a while a theatrical production results in a “what is going on?” and “why is time and energy being wasted on this?” reaction.  Such is the case with “A Map of Virtue” now on stage at convergence continuum.

I thought maybe it was just my limited insight into the world of the obtuse, so I went on an internet search to find out the “true meaning” of what I had just seen.

A reviewer of the first staging of the play stated, “I think the play is a little bit of a formal adventure, because it’s symmetrical, but it contains a varied emotional landscape which includes love, horror and friendship.  It’s also about the present, the supernatural, and the ways we try to understand evil.”

(Okay, that’s enough to stimulate a “with all that double talk, what are you, or for that matter the playwright, trying to say if it takes that much obfuscation to explain the unexplainable?)

The review continues, “The thing is, you think it’s about something and then it’s not.  It’s vague, because you have to invest in the story.  There’s a possible love story, and then there isn’t.   There’s all these bird images.”

(What’s the play about?  What’s the purpose of the author?  Why did she spend time writing it if the only result is vagueness and no message?)

And, yet, another attempt to educate the attendee:  “Mark and Sarah are obsessed with birds, and that’s what brings them together.  Once things happen in the middle of the play, the second half of the play is these characters trying to understand what they saw, and how to live with it.”  “A Map Of Virtue is about morality.”

(Oh, its about morality!  What specifically leads to that conclusion?  What does morality in this context mean?)

The author,  herself, says, “A lot of the fear and mystery and silence came out of the fact that I was in the woods; I wasn’t  able to talk, and I was a little bit scared.  The flip side of that is: when you’re out in nature, and you’re silent, you can explore issues that are more complicated than when you’re in the city, when you’re so busy multitasking and your imagination can get somewhat limited.  Going out into the woods gives you a larger creative landscape that you can play around in.”

(Well, that should clear it up.  Yeah, sure!)

Another reviewer tries to save the day (and the play) by explaining, “In the end, ‘A Map of Virtue’ is the mirror image of the way it’s told. Just as a tidy structure frames some serious quirks, an outrageous episode becomes a window into a resonant tale of loss, lives not lived and the unlikely moments that hold relationships together.”

(What?  What? What?)

So, here’s my conclusion:  The narration is unclear, the plot development is unclear, the author seems unclear as to her purpose.  The reviewers are confused, but afraid to admit it, so they write in circles and abstractions.  They don’t want to be accused of being unintellectual.

You want to know the story?  There is a Hitchcock-like bird attack while two people (Sarah and Mark) in a coffee shop are looking at each other, but not communicating.   There is a little bird statue, who becomes our guide through the story, which was stolen by Mark from the office of the school official who molested him as a preteen.  The duo accidentally meet two other times, the second time at a party, are invited to a stranger’s house for another “party,” which turns out not to be a party.  They are locked up in a room, visited by a man in a bird mask and the female who invited them to the party, given little food, have no bathroom facilities.  Through a window  they see smoke or children or something playing outside, are saved by Mark’s lover who tracks them on Mark’s cell phone GPS, and spend a lot of time babbling about if they saw children.

(I swear, that’s it.)

The cast is fine.

(I do wonder if they understand the play any better than the past and present reviewers, the director, or anyone else.)

Cory Molner creates some nice lighting effects.

Capsule Judgement:  I guess I’m old fashioned.   I prefer a play that, when it is over, I have some idea of what went on and take from it either having experienced a good laugh, a bit of real intrigue, a message, or a moral.  Sorry, philosophically abstract gibberish, and a plot in search of a purpose, isn’t my thing.  If it’s yours, you’ll really be turned on by “A Map of Virtue.’    

“A Map of Virtue,’ July 12, 2014 at 8 pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. For information and reservations call 216-687-0074.

Con-con’s next show is “Amazon and Their Men” by Jordan Harrison, which runs from August 8-30.