Directed by Tosha Fowler
Produced by Cor Theatre
At Rivendall Theatre, Chicago
Complex and deliberately vague drama is enticing
Cor Theatre produces Erin Courtney’s controversial drama, A Map Of Virtue, that is part interview, part comedy, part memory work and part middle-of-the-night horror story and features heavy bird symbolism. Billed as “a hauntingly romantic play with a mystery at its center,” Map unfolds as an adventure of seeming coincidences affecting two characters. Mark is (the terrific Will Von Vogt) a survivor of child abuse who carries a bird statue to give him relief from those horrible memories. One day in a diner he has a non-verbal connection with a woman, Sarah (Mallory Nees), just before a swarm of birds invades the place. Their connection plays out as more than randomness as the story proceeds.
This play uses the personification of a bird statue (the one in Mark’s pocket), played hauntingly by Scottie Caldwell, to both narrate and present the ‘virtue’ of each scene. This device doesn’t help much to give clarity to the work as it acts a more of a scene changing device.
Once Mark encounters Sarah in Ireland, he leaves the bird statue on a bench next to Sarah, who now possesses the statue and she becomes enamored with its power. This story of shared obsession takes strange twists as Sarah is fixated now by birds and Mark continues to be influenced by birds despite not having the little statue in his pocket.
After Mark and his boyfriend Victor (Ruben Adorno) somehow meet Sarah and her husband Nate (Nick Mikula) socially, eventually Mark and the couple are together at a party where they meet June (Eleni Pappageorge) who lures them to another party in a rural area where the three are held hostage by June and her associate Ray (Adam Benjamin). Their experience is horrifying.
Without revealing more, let me state that coincidences and shared obsessions mark this ambiguous symmetrical tale about the limits of our virtues and what we leave behind. I’m not sure what all the symbols mean and what we are suppose to take from the vagueness of Courtney’s psychological thriller. But I did become engaged in the characters and I cared what happened to them. I’m just not sure of the veracity of some of the scenes, particularly the hostage scenes.
Since A Map Of Virtue is unique and cleverly vague, it possesses a compelling mystery to be solved. It is worth seeing despite it’s ambiguity. This 80 minute work will get you thinking: “What’s this story really about?” That’s not a bad think but a virtue.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 11, 2015
For more info checkout the A Map of Virtue page at theatreinchicago.com
At Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge, Chicago, IL, call 866-811-4111, www.cortheatre.org, tickets $25, $10 student/industrious, Thursdays they Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 5pm, running time is 80 minutes without an intermission, through February 14, 2015.