Jon Norman Schneider, Birgit Huppuch, and
Maria Striar in A Map of Virtue
(© Scott Adkins)
Jon Norman Schneider, Birgit Huppuch, and
Maria Striar in A Map of Virtue
(© Scott Adkins)
It's pretty safe to say there isn't a play like Erin Courtney's one-act A Map of Virtue, currently being presented by 13P at the 4th St Theatre. The reason: the work is narrated by a bird statue.

Thankfully, this statue can talk and is brought to life by the graceful Birgit Huppuch. Dressed in white, she glides through the scenes, observing as she's passed from one owner to the next.

Director Ken Rus Schmoll elicits strong performances not only from Huppuch, but the entire cast, but they are not enough to ground this ambitious but frustrating play. Courtney crafts some wonderfully tense moments and her characters have potential to be compelling, but she traps them in artifice that confounds more than it illuminates.

The statue's journey begins as the possession of a particularly cruel school master who has a penchant for bird decorations and molesting boys. One of his victims, Mark (Jon Norman Schneider) steals the statue, and it proves to have a profound impact on his life trajectory.

Fast forward many years and we discover Mark is drawn to a woman, Sarah (Maria Striar), whom he sees in a coffee shop - and who has two large bird tattoos on her chest. It's a platonic attraction, though, as Mark loves men, particularly his boyfriend, Victor (Hubert Point-Du Jour). This, however, doesn't stop Mark and Sarah from embarking on a strange adventure with Sarah's husband Nate (Alex Draper) from which Victor will have to rescue them.

These events don't unfold in a linear manner, but rather fly across our consciousness in a fractured, dreamlike state. This further distances us from the story, which seems to try to fly away every chance it gets. Indeed, if you blink midway through a scene, chances are you'll get lost as new characters appear from nowhere and increasingly bizarre action unfolds.