A LIE OF THE MIND by Sam Shepard, directed by Paul Hardy, with Zachary Bennett, Jason Gautreau, Larissa Bangay, Patti Kazmer, Andrea Wasserman, David Austin, Suzanne Courtney and Byron Rouse. Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley). Runs to February 7, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm. $15, Thursday two-for-one. 416-364-4170. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
love's often a hurtin' tale of ob session, no more so than in the plays of Sam Shepard . Set in two households in the American Midwest, A Lie Of The Mind follows the shared fixation of brothers Jake and Frankie ( Zachary Bennett and Jason Gautreau ) for Beth ( Larissa Bangay ), whom we first meet as a hospitalized abuse victim.
But physical recuperation doesn't lead to emotional health, for any of the characters. Beth's taken home and nursed by her parents and brother, Frankie tracks her down and is pulled into that brood's vortex, while the hallucinating Jake is cared for by his own mother and sister.
Shepard's dark, often bizarrely humorous takes on infatuation and family (there are hints of incest as well as parental smothering) are as compelling as they are toe-curling. Director Paul Hardy 's production captures the love/hate thing much of the time, especially in Beth's family.
Bangay is a wonderfully intense, push-pull figure, alternately naive, playful and terrifying. David Austin and Suzanne Courtney as her parents, sometimes lost in their own worlds, and Byron Rouse as her protective brother understand that laughter and horror can exist in the same instant.
The parallel family isn't as effective, though Patty Kazmer 's caustic, single-minded mother has some of the play's best double-edged lines. Too bad Gautreau's Frankie isn't better defined, and that Bennett's intensity and menace feel limited to surface shouting.
The production gets excellent musical backup from the Hogtown Harmony Machine , a quintet whose live honky-tonk country captures the kick-ass mood of Shepard's writing.