October 9, 2002


A Lie of the Mind

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning




















For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

(the article first appeared in The Charlotte Observer)

At the end of a dead end street on the edgy fringe of NODA, a new theatre company named innerVoices is taking a chance. Their inaugural production is Sam Shepardís complicated A Lie of the Mind. It is a distressing and absurdist play about how two families react to violence, repression, and abandonment.

Executive Director Carver Johns, Managing Director Alan Nelson and Artistic Director Serena Ruden all play starring roles. The space has fabulous potential, with a gargantuan stage, towering ceiling, and tiered seating. Unfortunately, the sticky hot October weather, the torturously uncomfortable chairs (the cheapest that money can buy), and a lot of yelling made this three hour production difficult to watch.

First produced in New York in 1985, the show won the 1986 Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It is a study of loneliness and desperation, as well as the painful ways people inflict themselves upon each other. Jake, played by Johns, is a guy with no apparent good qualities. He has beaten his beautiful wife Beth, played by Ruden, to an unrecognizable pulp, and thinks he has killed her. As a result, both Jake and Beth move back home to their families.

Beth and Jake both have brothers who try to act as voices of reason. Both have mothers who take them back home without any curiosity about the horror that brought them there. Jakeís mother, skillfully played by Polly Adkins, muses that "a woman who lives with a man like that deserves to be killed." Bonnie Johnson is excellent as Bethís mother, who has maintained a few spirited sparks despite being married to a man who steals bits of her soul every time he opens his mouth. The fathers, one absent and one on stage, control the personalities of the mothers.

In A Lie of the Mind people will not see what they donít want to see. Blame from obvious sources is seamlessly transferred to the innocent. Every character has mastered the art of self-deception. The members of both families slowly suffocate each other with indifference, violence, and stupidity. Everyone is marginalized, and they each use whatever miniscule means they have to impose their will on each other. The means range from cream of broccoli soup to damaging old secrets. All of this is accomplished by a lot of screaming.

Itís a daring production of a complicated play. In the end, it is up to the audience to decide whether even a speck of love resides within any of the characters.

Lynn Trenning, October 9, 2002

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