BWW Reviews: The Bug Theatre gives us haunting excellence in Sam Shepard's A LIE OF THE MIND
The Bug Theatre is proud to present Sam Shepard's drama, A LIE OF THE MIND playing now through May 31st. Told in three acts set in the gritty American West, the story alternates between two families after a severe incident of spousal abuse leaves all their lives altered. The two families, one composed of Baylor, Meg, Beth, and Mike, the other composed of Lorraine, Sally, Frankie, and Jake are connected by the marriage of Jake and Beth, whose beating and subsequent hospitalization at the hands of Jake initiates the beginning of the play. Exploring family dysfunction and the nature of love, the play follows Jake as he searches for meaning after Beth, and her family, as they struggle with Beth's brain damage.
"This is me now...all different".
Before I break this down I have to say that although I had a couple of issues with individual performances, the ensemble as a whole was solid and worked so well together as a cohesive unit on this disturbing drama. Haley Johnson was in a league of her own as she skilfully portrayed the beaten and broken wife, Beth. It was her concentration and dedication to not just her speech patterns that almost made up a whole new language, but the additions of gestures and ticks to her damaged character that proved why she is one of the formidable talents here in Denver. She was disturbingly mesmerizing and I could not take my eyes off of her meticulous performance. Sam Gilstrap was dynamic and powerful as Beth's brother, Mike and gave such tortured strength to his character. Darcy Kennedy and Dell Domnik as Beth's parents, Meg and Baylor were good and worked together well as a couple, but I wish that Meg had been a little more fidgety and fussy, and that Baylor had been even more crotchety. Chris Bleau was pretty good as Beth's husband, Jake but I wish that he had added a bit more layering to this intense character and really build upon his uncontrollable temper. I was quite impressed by Paul Jaquith as Frankie and his performance was a bit more grounded than the others which made character magnetic to watch, especially as we careened towards the end of the show. I adored Libby Rife as the Jake's mother and the queen of denial. Her performance was off the cuff and she captured the audience with her journey into self discovery and independence. Another fine showing was Mary Kay Riley who also gave a well-rounded and realistic portrayal of Jake's sister, Sally. Her description of her father's untimely and tragic end transfixed everyone in the audience and her interactions with her family kept the show real and grounded.
Director Verl Hite definitely had his work cut out for him with this complicated, twisted and dark drama and put together an outstanding cast to represent. He did a superb job with the keeping the flow and energy going with this lengthy play and the transitions were fluid and effortless. Mr. Hite was also effective with his soft and reflective lighting design that enhanced this phenomenal set. I must say that I was completely in in awe over the visual picture and think that is is the best set that I have seen on the Bug stage. Set designer, Kenn Penn truly honored this play with the towering telephone poles, elevated double wooden set floors, and a fabulous and ominous painted backdrop that drew you in. Alex Weimer put together an awesome playlist for the show with his sound design and I appreciated the addition of the effect of a radio turning the dial full of static when transitioning from the two locations. I also have to compliment makeup artist Genea Godbold for adding the shocking and realistic bruises on Beth and the grisly leg wound on Frankie.
This show was an excellent study into character development and elevated performances with fascinating interpersonal cross-section that kept the audience engaged throughout. A LIE OF THE MIND is intriguing audiences now through May 31st. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm at the Bug Theatre: (3654 Navajo Street) in Denver. For tickets or more information contact the box office by calling 303-477-5977 or online at www.bugtheatre.org.
PLEASE NOTE : Contains partial nudity, for mature audiences only.
PHOTO CREDIT: Verl Hite
PICTURED ABOVE: Haley Johnson as Beth
Haley Johnson as Beth and Sam Giltrap as Mike
Sam Gilstrap as Mike
Mary Kay Riley as Sally and Libby Rife as Lucielle
From This Author Michael Mulhern