Sunday, July 31, 2011

'A Lie of the Mind' review

Here's my latest review from the Post. I have seen a few shows, and I have seen a few shows at Paragon, but I'm telling you, this is an absolutely killer piece, essentially top to bottom. I am clearly a Sam Shepard fan, so it is possible that I am biased, but try it out for yourself and see what you think.

I like to think I know Shepard; I was Austin in an OpenStage production of 'True West,' and (like everyone else) I come from a fucked-up family. But I don't think i ever knew how absurdist and fearless he was about jumping off the deep end--and dragging his audience along--until I saw this show. Be prepared: he keeps twisting the screw tighter and tighter until, by the end, even though you realize how ridiculous things have gotten, you're still along for the ride anyway. You can't help it.

If I could be a writer with a tenth of his skill at storytelling, I would be a happy man. Anyway, enjoy.

P.S. I really liked James O'Hagan-Murphy's performance; I just didn't mention it directly because I have been in a show with him and I was worried about the potential for the 'appearance of impropriety,' as they say in politics. :) Go. Enjoy. In fact, I would see this again; let me know if anyone's interested in checking it out.

via the Denver Post: William Hahn and Emily Paton-Davies in, as John Moore dubbed it, Sam Shepard's family freakout, 'A Lie of the Mind.'


If you want to know a man, meet his family.

No matter how much you may think you’ve changed after leaving home, your true self remains with them.

Perhaps that’s why we often hesitate when introducing a new love interest to our kin: our interactions with our parents and siblings unwittingly divulge more of our true nature than we are prepared to share.

More than any other modern playwright--perhaps more than any other writer period--Sam Shepard has a gift for tuning in to this secret language of family. Broadcast on a frequency just under the hearing range of outsiders, it’s no less real than words spoken aloud.

Shepard has made a career of documenting the dissolution of the ancient, agrarian-based family unit as it has morphed into the rootlessness of post-war America, and how our alienation from ourselves coincides with our alienation from family. For Shepard, the true pain and weirdness of what it is to be part of a family is thrown into stark relief whenever we go back to the old homestead for a visit, no matter how hard we try to hide these truths from ourselves.

Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind” is Paragon Theatre’s latest show, with not one but two families on display.

The show opens with a desperate phone call taking place on a darkened set: “She’s dead. I killed her,” says a weeping Jake (Tom Borillo) to his brother Frankie (James O’Hagan-Murphy). Soon the lights come up and Warren Sherrill’s brilliant set is revealed to be two rooms side-by-side, each pure Shepard: bare light bulbs and puckered, yellowing paint speak of a thousand cigarettes smoked over grim, terse conversations between unhappy people.

One room is the Southern California house that belongs to Frankie and Jake’s mother Lorraine (Edith Weiss) and the other serves as the Salt Lake hospital room for Jake’s recovering wife Beth (Emily Paton Davies) and later as her family’s Montana home.

So, Beth has indeed survived the savage attack by her jealous husband Jake, leaving her brother Mike (William Hahn) to care for her in the hospital. He has his work cut out for him; Beth has been so severely beaten that her thoughts and speech come slowly. Even walking is a challenge.

Mike also serves as Beth’s bewildered advocate when the siblings’ parents Baylor and Meg (Jim Hunt and Patty Mintz Figel) make the trek down from Montana to see their daughter--and to sell a couple of mules while they’re there.

That small touch of humor and sense of strangely misplaced priorities is perhaps an early indicator of how weird things are going to get--which is much weirder than you think.

While Jake devolves into a little boy over his guilt for what he still believes to be a murder, refusing to come out of his childhood bedroom where he is coddled by his mama, little brother Frankie decides to see for himself if Beth survived the attack.

Director Jarrad Holbrook gets some tremendous performances from his cast, especially Tom Borrillo, who skillfully handles Jake’s numerous emotional levels and shifts in tone and demeanor. As his brain-damaged wife Beth, Emily Paton Davies is also outstanding, revealing the frustrated claustrophobia of the human being trapped inside the broken thing her brain has become.

As Frankie and Jake’s mother Lorraine, Edith Weiss is the epitome of frizzed-out, bleach-blond white trash, never to blame and ever lashing out at a world that has treated her and her boys oh-so unfairly.

And never play poker with William Hahn. Better than any actor in town, he is magnificent at holding his cards close to his vest, revealing the places his character is heading only incrementally, giving us tiny slices of what is to be right up until he turns over a straight flush.

Aside from a few minor, momentary deviations, this is a magnificent show. Bring the whole (adult) family; you’ll be delighted to learn that families get even weirder than your own.

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