Assistant Opinion and Editorial Editor
This weekend, the department of theatre, dance, and film (TDF) presented Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind at the Green Room Theatre. Directed by Carol Davis, associate professor and chair of the TDF department, the play was centered around two uniquely dysfunctional families both rocked by one vicious act of domestic violence.
The play begins in the wake of that stunning act of spousal abuse, as an unhinged Jake (Jordan Mclean ’13) reveals to his brother Frankie (Nate Hughes ’15) that he attacked his wife, Beth (Shannon Ricchetti ’16), and essentially left her for dead. Beth has instead been left critically brain damaged, and her brother, Mike (Mike Manley ’14) and parents Meg and Baylor (Corinne Littlefield ’13 and Eric Lewis ’14), along with Jake’s mother Lorraine (Meg Honigberg ’13) and sister Sally (Jenny Robbins ’13), are in turn left to wrangle with the assault’s fallout. As both deer and people are shot, houses and relationships burnt down, and almonds and matches thrown, Shepard uses each family’s respective reactions and coping mechanisms to explore and obliterate concepts of family, home, and love in American society.
Davis explained the play’s brand of poetic dysfunction is typical of its author.
“I love Sam Shepard because his lyrical writing wrestles with images of the American family, and cracks open certain underlying myths,” Davis said. “The characters in the play seem archetypal to me, even though I know he is writing from an autobiographical perspective.”
A Lie of the Mind first premiered at the off-Broadway Promenade Theatre in 1985. Upon its premiere, it won the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award for Best Play, as well as a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.
Sam Shepard himself is a decorated veteran of American theatre. His 1979 play, Buried Child, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A Lie of the Mind is regarded by some as the conclusion that rounds out a quintet of plays which includes Shepard’s Family Trilogy: Curse of the Starving Glass (1976), Buried Child (1979), and True West (1980), and Fool for Love (1983).
Davis was moved to stage Shepard’s play by its many layers.
“It is absurd and funny, but also tragic and moving,” Davis said. “It is about loving, hating, remembering, and forgetting — all at the same time. I knew it would provide our student actors with a rich and challenging acting experience.”
It would prove to be a challenge that, in Davis’ eyes, the ensemble members rose to meet.
“I had a wonderful experience working with this cast of student actors on this production,” Davis said.
“Everyone put a great deal of energy into analyzing their characters, uncovering their relationships with the other characters, mastering the many (sometimes non-sensical seeming) lines, and working long hours in rehearsal to craft compelling performances. There were no big egos in the cast and everyone got along very well and really became an ensemble.”
In its run, from Thursday, Feb. 14 to Sunday, Feb. 17, Lie was met with mixed reactions.
“Sometimes the audience enjoys the humor in it, while other times, they take it more seriously,” Davis said.
Indeed, it is apparent that one audience member in particular took the TDF production quite seriously. Davis said a representative from the American College Theatre Festival attended the play’s Friday night performance, and awarded the cast with the Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Ensemble. Though any recognition would be an honor, this is particularly flattering, according to Davis.
“The Ensemble award is the one I value most, because it means that every actor in the production contributed equally to its success. In this case, that is especially true.”
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