A Lie of the Mind

The people presented by author Sam Shepard are not the kind of people you want to know. To call them dysfunctional is definitely one step up, and the actors do a marvelous job bringing out the worst of the worst. If Sergio Leone hadn’t used the title, Sam could have called it “The Good, the Bad – and the Ugly” and if he forgot to use the word Good not much would change. .
The two family groups are wisely divided into the two ends of the stage, and when there is a cross-over, sparks usually fly.
We first meet Jake, placing a phone call to brother Frankie from somewhere on the open road, claiming he beat up his wife Beth and killed her. It becomes evident this was not the first beating and that Jake is a hot head who loses his temper at the drop of a hat. Jason Weisgerber is electrifying as the seriously disturbed loser, whose jealousy brought on the assault.
Jamison Driskill is much more subdued and reasonable as little brother, Frankie giving a compelling performance.
Cut to the hospital, where Beth is alive, but not well. She is bandaged and delirious, apparently with serious brain damage that’s causing partial loss of speech and memory. Veronique Ory carries off this difficult role with sympathetic rapport, never allowing us to know what’s really in Beth’s mind and what she feels. One gets the feeling that Beth has decided to use this trauma to help her get out of a bad marriage and lets events roll on as she carefully goes along for the ride. Her brother Mike is determined to avenge the beating and becomes obsessed with getting even with Jake. Jonathan Frappier has a couple of good scenes.
It’s easy to see why Jake has problems when we meet Jake’s mother. We don’t want to say that Trudy Forbes as the mother, channels trailer trash- she’s worse!
With a mother like that, trailer life would be an improvement, and the only one that seems to be immune from her madness is her daughter Sally who would be a normal, sweet girl if she could except for the time when she saw her father squashed by a truck in Mexico. Rachel Lyeria is excellent as the sister who is usually hazzled by the brothers and who shares a secret with Jake which has haunted them for years.
Lorraine, the mother harbors a deep hatred for her husband, but seems to have an inordinate affinity with Jake, claiming that from the day he was born he fell on his head and has never been well since.
Beth’s parents are equally off center. Pamela Clay is just wonderful as Meg, the meek, submissive wife whose memory and motivations have been impaired by years of brow-beating by husband Baylor.
James Storm makes Baylor an almost cartoony, rifle slinging hick more interested in hunting a deer for the rack than the recovery of his daughter.
With Meg’s memory problems, it is never clear if Beth’s current condition is the result of partial heredity combined with the beating she suffered from Jake.
At three hours, the play sometimes drags under the weight of the dialog, but fortunately director Charlotte Gulezian keeps the action bouncing like a tennis match between the two households and has integrated some very effective sound designs and music which help to maintain alertness. She also has managed to draw out some excellent characterizations bringing dynamic life to the play. By the end, one feels that these people have no clue about their future, and are totally in the dark about their past. They allow their imagination and perceptions to influence their actions, but seldom stop to check the veracity of their thinking and when they act on first impulses, they later discover their mind may have lied to them but now it’s too late. So they take the next step on another whim, which brings them deeper into the whirlpool of deceptions. Definitely another strongly carved notch on the winner’s belt of Athena Theatre.