The play begins shortly after Jake (a frighteningly good Nate Cheeseman) has beaten his wife Beth (a frail yet strong Amy Pirkl) so badly that she ends up in the hospital with brain damage, and has to relearn how to walk and talk. This is not the first time this has happened, and Beth's brother Mike (Bear Brummel) and parents (Don Maloney and Delta Rae Giordano) take her home to recover in Montana where she grew up. Similarly, Jake's sister (Joy Dolo) and bitter mother (Kit Bix) take him in while his brother Frankie (Gabriel Murphy) travels to Montana to check on Beth and make sure she's not dead, as Jake feared. What follows is an exploration of three dysfunctional families. Beth's father is the stereotypical head of the household, spending all his time in the hunting shack and ordering his wife to apply oil to his dry and cracking feet. Jake's mother has never recovered from her husband leaving and his tragic death. And we know how Jake and Beth ended up.
|Nate Cheeseman and Amy Pirkl|
as the not so happy couple
(photo by Charles Gorrill)
The starkly beautiful West of Sam Shepard's imagination is well represented on nimbus' intimate stage by scenic designer Ursula Bowden. The stage elegantly and seamlessly combines three very different sets - a hotel, hospital room, and childhood basement bedroom - with a painted Western backdrop tying them together. The former two sets are replaced by the Montana living room, which shares some of the same space with the basement bedroom. In fact they almost seem to exist in the same space, even though they're presumably hundreds of miles apart, as Jake and Beth can almost seem to see each other across the distance.
The last Shepard play I saw was only an hour long, so I was expecting this one to be short as well. It's not, coming in at almost three hours with intermission. That's a long time to spend with these miserable people in their miserable lives, but it's a compelling and engaging play despite the misery. A Lie of the Mind continues through September 27.