Here’s everything you need to know about Thinking Cap Theatre’s engrossing production of Erin Courtney’s A Map of Virtue: It’s dark. It’s unnerving. It resonates in ways you don’t expect and travels to places you never see coming. It’s experimental theater — the narrator is, after all, a bird statue, played with watchful, exquisite grace by Jovon Jacobs — but it’s experimental theater that’s linear enough to follow easily, challenging enough to make you think and creepy enough to haunt your dreams.
Beyond that, well, knowing little is best. Directed by Nicole Stodard, A Map of Virtue is full of unexpected coincidences and terrors, which play out effectively in the small confines of The Vanguard theater in Fort Lauderdale. The minimalist set by Alyiece Moretto adds to a growing sense of claustrophobia as main characters Mark (Tom Anello) and Sarah (Casey Dressler) describe for an unseen interviewer the way they keep meeting over and over, first at a diner during an attack right out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, then in a remote spot in Ireland, then on the streets of the city in which they live. Finally, with Sarah’s husband Nate (Scott Douglas Wilson) in tow, they find their strange bond tested by unspeakable fear.
A Map of Virtue then shifts into horror mode, and director Stodard understands — like every filmmaker who ever made a truly frightening movie — that what’s most disturbing isn’t blood and gore but silence and stillness and waiting (and, with good timing from sound designer David Hart, the occasional unidentified rustle). This approach makes the tension all the more palpable, and the cast — which includes the memorable Niki Fridh and a deeply creepy Noah Levine — plays out this grim scenario with fatalistic dexterity.
So what does this all mean? What exactly is A Map of Virtue suggesting about human nature, about fear, about life? What are the answers to its many mysteries? The only way to know is to see it for yourself.
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If you go
What: ‘A Map of Virtue’ by Erin Courtney.
Where: Thinking Cap Theatre production at The Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 18.
Information: 813-220-1546 or www.vanguardarts.org.