WINDY CITY TIMES
||A LIE OF THE MIND
Playwright: Sam Shepard
by Rick Reed
This article shared 1967 times since Wed Oct 10, 2001
At one point in Sam Shepard's searing familial drama, a character says: "Love is a disease that makes you feel good while it lasts." The comment pretty much sums up the bleak portrait of love and family portrayed in A Lie of the Mind. This tale of two families linked by marriage ( and dysfunction in a big, big way-- as only playwright Shepard knows how to portray it: with a lyrical intensity that sculpts something beautiful out of a piece of coal ) is not for the faint of heart. A Lie of the Mind, in its riveting, razor-sharp scenes, portrays familial violence graphically, but manages to find, somehow, the tiny bits of hope and love lurking just beneath the turmoil.
Jake thinks he's killed his wife Beth with his latest beating. But that's not quite the case. He's left her brain-damaged and disfigured, in the care of her brother, Mike, whose taste for revenge is brought to fever pitch by the abuse of his sister, and her parents, who have their own unique brand of commitment. Jake sends his brother, Frankie, to see if Beth is indeed, dead. In the process of this mission of discovery, Frankie is "accidentally" shot by Beth's father and becomes an unwelcome houseguest at Beth's family home.
Such are the beginnings of the complications and twisted story lines that comprise A Lie of the Mind. In the hands of a lesser company, A Lie of The Mind, could be a disaster, a gratuitous hymn to violence, a bleak cartoon of the human condition, or worse. But American Theater Company has done something wondrous with this seldom-performed Sam Shepard opus: they've perfectly realized the playwright's vision. From a mega-talented ensemble to superior direction by Brian Russell to incidental music composed for the production by Marty Higginbotham, to the minimalist, yet hard- working design by Keith Pitts ( set ) , Darin Keesing ( lighting ) , and Lindsay Jones ( sound ) , A Lie of the Mind is a nearly flawless production. It's a bleak vision, brought to electrifying life-- and its three-hour course passes in a snap.
Director Brian Russell has made some amazingly smart choices here, the best one being keeping everything ultra simple, so that his actors ( all formidable ) have a chance to shine. A Lie of the Mind is about human interaction, miscommunication, yearning, and unfulfilled longing and it's only in the voices of these damaged characters that the real themes and motifs can come to life. Deanna Dunagan, as Lorraine, the white trash mother of Jake, shines in her role. I've seen this talented actor perform in several things before and I don't think I've ever seen an actor disappear so completely into a part. Her Lorraine is fiercely devoted to her sons, negligent of her daughter, and seemingly steely in her outlook. But in a powerhouse scene where her daughter tells her how her estranged husband died, Dunagan lifts the curtain on this woman's falsely tough exterior, displaying her vulnerability powerfully. John Sterchi, as Jake, is all bottled rage and misplaced love and as his brother, Frankie, James Leaming is uncomfortably convincing, especially after his gun-shot wound, when he lays dying and a prisoner in his in-law's house. Suzanne Petri, as Beth's mother Meg, is also wonderful, her Jennifer Holiday dumbbell voice belying a woman who is, really, holding her family together. And, as the brain-damaged Beth, Cheryl Graeff is simply breathtaking, delivering Shepard's disjointed, yet poetic lines, with just the right amount of pathos and strength.
A Lie of the Mind is the best thing I've seen at American Theater Company. Don't miss it.
This article shared 1967 times since Wed Oct 10, 2001
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