Actors delve into ugly truths in dramatic ‘Lie of the Mind’

By Claire Buchanan

The School of Theatre and Dance actors shed light on abusive relationships in Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind.”

Eight cast members and a four-piece band share the story of two families who are united by an abusive marriage. Anger and sadness intertwine after the character Beth suffers brain damage at the hands of her abusive husband, Jake, who has a dark secret to hide.

“I have actors and band members who love this story,” said director Kendra Holton. “And they love to tell it as painful and ugly as it is. It’s really rewarding, to tell the truth.”

“A Lie of the Mind’s” stage design includes couches and a bed; however, through lighting tricks, lighting designer Theresa Kelly transforms the stage into the homes of two families.

The families, who are at odds but united by a shared dysfunction, have opposing views on Jake’s abuse of Beth. Jake’s mother defends her son while Beth’s brother, Mike, feels vengeful for what Jake has done.

“I think people are going to be a little disturbed because there’s a lot of dysfunction,” said Emily Rieder, a graduate acting student who plays Beth. “But, I also think that people will feel a strong empathy towards the characters, as well.”

Shepard’s characters are not one-sided but are rather complex and realistic, said Matt Romriell, a graduate acting student who plays Jake.

“At the same time as Jake has done this horrible thing, you still see him as a human being,” Romriell said. “That’s my hope — that you’ll see him as a human. Maybe people will relate to the story in ways that make them uncomfortable.”

Don’t be surprised if the actors get close: The action of the play is not limited to the stage as actors walk along the aisles.