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Birds, both creepy and comforting, dominate dreamy play

Being a lover of birds, I was attracted to the convergence-continuum production of “A Map of Virtue.” This season’s plays at the Tremont neighborhood theater have animals as its focus, and this one involves a bird. The show is a dense 70 minutes of theater. Like many of the shows at convergence-continuum, the title of the play does not seem to have any connection that I can see to the content. Also typical, describing the plot of the show is like describing a dream.

Mark, played by Jack Matuszewski, is a young man with a troubled past. An abused child, he took a small bird icon from the home of his abuser, which was filled with bird images. In the production, Mike Majer plays the Bird Statue, which is really an icon small enough to fit in a pocket. Majer connects easily and well with the audience. He describes scenes that could be described by only the participants or an unseen viewer. Playwright Eric Courtney gives the show an overcast of lyric poetry, often in the voice of the Bird Statue.

Mark has had a number of chance encounters with the same young lady, an obsessive, visceral Sarah, played with clenched fist tension by Kat Bi. These encounters span years, and even when Jack is with his boyfriend Victor, and Sarah is with her husband Nate, they still recognize each other. As Mark and Sarah, Matuszewski and Bi have nice moments of alternating dialogue, but the physical distance that separates them on the endlessly varied con-con stage, works against both the relationship that they share and the comprehension by the audience.

As Nate, Logan Smith looks the part of a rebel who turns out to be one of the more sensible of the characters. It’s a nice contrast, so kudos to the actor and director Clyde Simon. Eric Sever seems to have a throwaway role as Mark’s boyfriend, but he comes back in a surprising way later in the show.

Through a series of circumstances, Sarah, Mark and Nate find themselves at a gathering where an odd woman invites them to go to another, more fun, party. Going to a secluded rural house, the three young people find that they are prisoners of June and Ray. True weirdos, June, played by Lucy Bredeson-Smith, serves the trio water from a cooking pot, and Robert Hawkes as Ray invites them to order him around, but only when he is wearing his bird mask. This second segment of the play seemed to resonate most with the audience at the opening night performance that I attended.

The third section of the play is a deconstruction of what happened in the past and what the relationships will be in the future. Bird Statue Mike guides the audience through this process.

“A Map of Virtue” is vaguely structured like a Greek tragedy. There is a “violation” in the middle, which is the imprisonment of the characters in this show, and then endless discussions on what actually happened or did not happen, and what the relationships will be among the characters in the future. While “A Map of Virtue” is not for everyone – I’m not even sure it is for me – it is part of the con-con syndrome. You will see performances here that you will see nowhere else. I enjoyed Grey Cross’s supportive and atmospheric sound design, but found the fragmented set by director Simon and Steve Vogel to be unnecessarily distracting. Turning my head made it harder to focus on scenes.

The show runs in the Tremont theater on Scranton Road through July 12. For more information, call 216-687-0074.

Logan Smith as Nate, Kat Bi as Sarah and Jack Matuszewski as Mark are about to become prisoners of Lucy Bredeson-Smith as June in the convergence-continuum theater production of "A Map of Virtue." (Photo by C. Molnar)




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