Though it tells an unusual story, "A Map of Virtue" feels as unassuming as an afternoon in a Williamsburg coffee shop. Set designer Marsha Ginsberg and lighting designer Tyler Micoleau have made the most of 4th Street Theatre's deep black box, keeping it empty and slowly revealing every possible entrance and lighting effect as the play's secrets unfold. Ultimately, they give director Ken Rus Schmoll, whose staging is equally supple and precise, a much more expansive space than the one with which they begin.
Neither the design nor the performances call attention to themselves, seducing with skill not spectacle. Though there is no weak performance, the women are the most memorable. Annie McNamara puts her steely presence to good use as the play's disturbed villain, while Striar wrings charm from her character's neuroses.
Courtney is a painter when she's not writing for the theater, but the language and circular structure of her play are those of a poet. Though her ostensible subject is virtue—how we define it and live up to it—the play is more properly about connection. With a Hitchcockian sensibility, she makes psychodrama out of the mystery of what keeps people together even as imaginations and egos push them apart. Like a souvenir from a fleeting dream, this play will pass over you painlessly, and then it will linger.
Presented by 13P at 4th Street Theatre, 83 E. Fourth St, NYC. Feb. 12–25. Tue.–Sat., 8 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.13p.org. Casting by Kelly Gillespie.