Trinity Rep’s “A Lie Of The Mind:” Delightful, Dark and Scary

Jun 4, 2014

Trinity Rep resident acting company members Anne Scurria as Meg and Timothy Crowe as Baylor in Sam Shepard’s "A Lie of the Mind."
Credit Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

There’s a myriad of ways to approach “A Lie of the Mind” and the huge production at Trinity. First of all is the fantasia of a set by director Brian Mertes and the ever-inventive designer Eugene Lee.

In fact, if you are a Trinity regular you’ll barely recognize the downstairs Dowling Theater. Lee has opened it up like a huge split-down-the-middle watermelon. The acting space now seems double the old and is home to everything from a backdrop of, by my count, 52 portable floor fans that whir on an off every now and again. Throw in a pool of water, an overhead sort of crane and, oh yes, a couple of beds, a chair or two and, eventually, thank goodness, an American flag.

Then there’s the performing which is prideful and delightful, dark and scary, and a tribute to the words of that great philosopher from the 1960s, Hunter Thompson, who once wrote, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Led by Trinity vets Timothy Crowe, Anne Scurria and Janice Duclos ably abetted by relative newcomers Rebecca Gibel,  Benjamin Grills, Britt Faulkner, Billy Finn and Charlie Thurston, this production is sparked with great moments, absurd moments, hilarious ones and inexpressively sad ones, too.

By now, you have probably figured out that “A Lie of the Mind” – Shepard’s way of saying that we are all guilty of lying, to others and ourselves – is a not so much a play as it is a poem. It is equipped with slicing fast turns, with moments of insight and mayhem. 

What’s happened is that one young man has severely beaten and injured one young woman. This brings two heartland families into close, too close, contact.

From there, there’s fierce fireworks, huge misunderstandings, delightful moments and others filled with fear and regret and anger, always anger.

In a way, “A Lie of the Mind” can be summed up in two words uttered by a guy named Jake. “Something’s wrong,” he says.

Writer Shepard is saying that the American family, the “American Dream,” has gone off the track, turned more into a train wreck than an ever-rising flight. There is however, at the end, some hope shown. Old Glory features in that.

When this play was first done Off Broadway in New York it ran four hours. At Trinity, they’ve gotten it down to “just” three with two intermissions. That helps, I’m sure. But still, I think, “A Lie of the Mind” needs trimming, although I’d hate to be the person who had to do it, as entangled as it is.

So, if you go to see this work – and you should – see it for the production which is really not a theater set but an adventure in boldness, and the acting which becomes controlled chaos of the first order. Just be prepared for some tediousness, some overdone story-telling.

But also know that for all its faults, “A Lie of the Mind” has engendered such a first rate production at a first rate theater.

Want To Go?

“A Lie of the Mind” continues at Trinity Rep through June 29th.