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A Lie of the Mind puts the fun in family Dysfunction

Ryan Biel, Lara Gilchrist, Patrick Keating and Kathleen Duborg at home on the ranch.

American playwright Sam Shepard, Main Street Theatre, Little Mountain Studio, all spell an evening of theatre that is compelling, entertaining and hip. Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind puts the fun in family dysfunction using   iconic characters with a heavy dose of mental illness from cowboy country USA. If you have relatives from rural anywhere Canada, be prepared to recognize your Aunt Roberta’s husband Jim as well.

Director Stephen Malloy, part of the Main Street Theatre Equity Coop, which includes Daryl King, Ryan Beil, and Josh Drebit,  directs with clarity and care a cast that is clearly having a blast. Juicy characters all, the choice of this particular play, offers Vancouver the opportunity to watch a Pulitzer awarded playwright (Buried Child) in an unusual setting.

Known for using the Little Mountain Studio in creative ways, the tiny space is configured this time by designer Malloy to have three playing areas. The placement of the audience creates an intimacy, because of the proximity to the actors, and also because the audience is facing each other. That makes the experience like watching a play in your living room. The temperature in the unheated room on the first snow of the year, huddled people in their coats, mitts and gloves under provided blankets, giving the feel of a campfire story hour.

Yes, a living room or a campfire, but with really fine actors telling the story of two families driven by ignorance and mental illness, but underneath it all, love.

Paranoid Jake (Josh Drebit) has beaten his wife Beth (Lara Gilchrist) so badly she has sustained a brain injury rendering her unable to walk or speak coherently. Jake’s brother Frankie is the first person that Jake calls, delusionally telling him that he’s killed his wife. Beth’s brother Mike (Daryl King) stands by his beloved sister in the hospital and at the parent’s ranch where father Baylor (Patrick Keating) and long suffering wife Meg (Kathleen Duborg) live together in a failing marriage. Jake and Frankie’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Pollard) enters to take care of Jake hoping to keep him safe locked up in his room while her daughter Sally (Rebecca Auerbach) hovers trying to find a relationship with her mother that doesn’t include a competitiveness that has Oedipus lurking in the corners. Everyone is searching for love and connection but messed up patterns of behaviour and id urges, what usually drives a Shepard play, get in the way.

Malloy ensures that the actors honour the words and rhythm of the play like a partnered dance that flows between scenes nailing the humour and the pathos in equal measure. With truly hilarious turns, the actors play and push the language with delight keeping their characters’ motivations real.

Barbara Pollard’s Lorraine is particularily clear. We understand why she does absolutely everything in her world from living in denial about her son, scapegoating her daughter and holding onto a love for her ex-husband that becomes confused by her hatred of him. The poetry in the language is also well served by Pollard.

Kathleen Duborg’s Meg is a nuanced study in the vagueness of a simple mind that can articulate exactly what’s going on. Played against Keating’s bullying yet dependent patriarch, absolutely spot on for those of us with relatives like him, their relationship grounds the family in familiarity allowing the audience to examine their own families.

Songs by the string band The Red Clay Ramblers, who created the music especially for an off Broadway production of A Lie of the Mind in the eighties, lead the scenes in and out brilliantly and the musician playing his guitar and singing Johnny Cash in the intermission lend itself to make for a truly excellent event.

Phone for reservations as the seating is limited:604-992-2313. Running till December 4th starting at 7:00pm.



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