by Michael Meigs
Sam Shepard wrote and directed A Lie of The Mind off Broadway in 1985. It won awards as best play then and the 2010 New York production won the Lucille Lortel award as best revival.
Musing over the claustrophobic evening with these characters, I recalled Harry Allard's picture book collaboration with James Marshall in the 1970's featuring a charmingly inept cartoon family named The Stupids. A Lie of the Mind is a hard evening with a bunch of no-hopers who might just be hybrids of The Stupids and The Nastys -- Deliverance-style degenerates, except that they're out somewhere in the great American West.
Jake has beaten his wife Beth senseless and believes that he killed her. His brother Frankie leaves the gibbering Jake in the custody of their steel-hearted mother Lorraine and travels to the remote ranch owned by Beth's stupid-nasty parents Baylor and Meg and Beth's stupid-nasty-protective brother Mike. It's the last day of the deer season and daddy Baylor sees a shape sneaking through the woods, so he shoots it. Or rather, him, since it's Frankie, trying to get to the house to make sure that beaten Beth is still alive.