A Lie of the Mind
By Russ Bickerstaff
Playwright Sam Shepherd is known for some pretty brutal drama. People go through intense stress. People get hurt. Sometimes things get weird. And, in the case of A Lie Of The Mind, sometimes things get REALLY weird. Windfall Theatre continues its 14th season with a thoughtful staging of one of Shepherd’s most compellingly off-center works.
Thomas and Sonia Rosenthal play Jake and Beth, the archetypal abusive young lovers who really should never have gotten together in the first place. With Shepherd’s script, we don’t see them together for much of the play. This is after the pain and suffering of incompatible love. The play happens well after the relationship has completely fallen apart. Beth is in the hospital and Jake has put her there. Mistakenly assuming that he has killed her, Jake goes to see his brother Frankie (Keith Tamsett) to help him sort things out while Beth finds herself visited by her brother Mike (Robert W.C. Kennedy) in the hospital. As Frankie tries to piece together what Jake did to Beth, Mike spends time with Beth trying to help her recover. The Mike and Beth dynamic is much more interesting at this point. Beth has been severely damaged by the beating Jake gave her. She can barely speak the language, as many words are lost to her. Shepherd gives her some very powerful lines with a severely limited vocabulary. Sonia Rosenthal performs the lines impeccably. It’s one thing to sound stilted by deliberately sparse dialogue . . . it’s another altogether to make that stilted dialogue sound natural. Sonia plays it beautifully. Through Sonia, we see the damage that has been done to Beth and it carries much of the first act. Thomas Rosenthal’s performance as Jake, however, is missing something early on. Mike struggles as Jake struggles to express himself to a world of which he’s very fearful and suspicious. Rather than being compellingly uncomfortable, Jake’s early scenes are just plain uncomfortable, which has its own effect entirely.
Meanwhile, Beth is taken home to be with her brother, father and mother. Here things get a little creepy. Beth’s parents Baylor and Meg (Max Manthey and Christine Horgen) are an old couple who don’t entirely communicate. Mike seems to want to bridge the gap between his parents, but his social skills aren’t completely up for the job, so everyone is emotionally isolated. Beth’s mental impairment doesn’t help matters. Things get considerably more complicated when Frankie shows up to try to apologize for what Jake did to Beth. Things get positively surreal toward the end, but there’s a powerful emotional reality that is difficult to shake as the actors take their final bows. VS
Windfall Theatre’s production of A Lie Of The Mind plays now through March 10th at Village Church Arts. For more information, call 414-332-3963 or visit Windfall online at www.windfalltheatre.com.