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    A Lie of the Mind

    Unsteady as she goes

    Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind," a rather affected drama of two western families' violent connection, nonetheless gets a strong production from members of the White Horse company.


    "It's getting hard to tell if anybody around here knows anything about anybody else," says one frustrated character in Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind," and it's a little bit exasperating for the audience as well.

    Company: White Horse Theater Co..
    Written by: Sam Shepard.
    Directed by: Cyndy A. Marion.
    Cast: Rod Sweitzer, Kara Tsiaperas, Bill Dobbins, Ellen Barry, Sylvia Norman, Jessica Baron, Ken Trammell, Joe MacDougall.

    Related links: Official site
    American Theatre of Actors
    314 West 54th Street
    Sept. 12-28, 2003

    Shepard's mid-1980s play about two families in the plains states is given a polished production by the White Horse Theater Company but its mentally enfeebled characters (if it were set in the south someone would surely have called them "touched") detract from what might otherwise be a much stronger story. Characters have forgotten their own parents, their children and their own weddings, robbing the play of some of its sense and plausibility. Every time one character answers another with a blank "I don't remember" and somebody else insists, "Don't you remember how you [insert anecdote here]," it seems more and more like an affectation on the playwright's part.

    A Lie of the Mind  
    We join the story after the play's key fact: Creepy husband Jake (Rod Sweitzer) has beaten wife Beth (Jessica Baron) to the point of severe brain damage. She is now comatose in a hospital, as her brother Mike (Bill Dobbins) keeps a vigil — not only to watch for signs of life but also to protect her from her fiolent husband and possibly dangerous in-laws. The couple's two families — hers apparently in Montana, his seemingly from California — battle it out with a combination of hereditary insanity and mutual antagonism.

    Although the script has weaknesses, the production has much to recommend it. Among the actors, I was most taken with Jessica Baron's performance as the enthusiastic and yet confused Beth — the one character who has an excuse for being so muddled. Bill Dobbins (previously seen in "Milton's Way" and "Triptych") is appropriately tempestuous as her brother, hotheaded but protective in the way that a young Montana man born with a rifle in his hand might well be. And Ken Trammell as her father is suitably prickly — almost the Archie Bunker of ranch country.

      A Lie of the Mind
    This production is especially notable for all aspects of its staging, thanks to, sound designer and music composer Kevin Paul Giordano and set designer Niluka Samarasekera as well as director Cyndy A. Marion. Lonesome western guitar sounds echo throughout the production, giving a tangible sense of the west's sparse humanity, and yielding occasionally to other, rather jarring sound effects. The huge painted backdrop that frames the entire stage is equally evocative, suggesting big sky country with slightly abstract shapes in the earthy palette of a golden sunset. A lot of touches, big and small, make this production an impressive one, in service of a script that could have been better.

    SEPTEMBER 27, 2003

    Reader comments on A Lie of the Mind:

  • Nothing Wrong With The Script   from Annonymous, Dec 7, 2003
  • Re: Nothing Wrong With The Script   from John, Dec 12, 2003
  • Re: Nothing Wrong With The Script   from Raquel, Oct 5, 2004
  • Re: Nothing Wrong With The Script   from Barbara, Oct 7, 2004
  • Re: Nothing Wrong With The Script   from Precious, Mar 9, 2006
  • scene 2, my opinions.   from dan scott, May 17, 2004
  • High School   from Lauren, Oct 30, 2006

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