KCAT production challenges mental illness concepts

1199

By Bob Evans

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Jake’s crazy rage over visions, jealousy, mistaken signs, and supposition leads him to beat his wife to the point where he leaves her for dead in Sam Shepard’s twisted play, “A Lie of the Mind,” that opened Saturday, Sept. 17 on Union Station’s City Stage to a sold out crowd.

Kansas City Actor’s Theatre continues to present classic plays as they also continue to build their base and fill the auditorium with enthusiastic crowds and stellar stage performances. Chalk up another victory with this three-act drama that explores spousal abuse of the most extreme. Jake, played by Brian Paulette, believes his wife, Beth, (Christina Schafer), an actress rehearsing for a part, spends more time daily primping for her role. Seeing that causes his mental disorder to fire-up, leading him to think she is engaging in sex with her co-star. That vision, firmly planted and thriving in his mind, causes him to beat her and leave her for dead. And so begins the play begins as Jake, on the phone to his brother, Frankie (Jake Walker) seeks comfort, advice, and reassurance.

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]

From the opening scene between Paulette and Walker the audience is shocked and pulled into the turbulent life of a crazy man plagued with mental illness. Unable to control his emotions and temper from birth onward, the only threads to cling to are the relationships among his brother, sister, and mother. And, the only ones safe from his bursts of rage and unreality remain his immediate family. Family loyalty and love give him hope. But, for Jake, love also creates jealousy, anger, rage, and emotional dilutions.

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

For the opposite situation, Beth survives his beating and her story opens in a hospital bed with her brother Mike (Forrest Attaway) urging her to understand, remember, talk, walk, and regain her facilities. Beth’s beating, extremely severe, leaves her brain damaged and incapacitated that she must relearn speech and motor skills for her recovery.

That’s the set up of the play. The audience knows they are in for a rough night when these are the opening scenes. To make the play even more involved, the families of Jake and Beth all suffer from their own personal demons–the most prominent are lack of education, lower class status, selfishness, stubbornness, revenge, and mentally weaknesses (in different ways), all coupled with red-neck values.

Shepard’s play provides a roller-coaster of emotional peaks and plunges so the audience gets some nervous laughs before plunging to new depths of dire despair. Desperate people do desperate things. Stupid people make stupid choices. Mentally ill persons succumb to even more extreme poor choices.

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Each of the three acts leave the audience stunned at the climactic events that end each act. Forget he notion that the play telegraphs the ending or foreshadows the final scene. That happens not in “A Lie of the Mind.” The play shocks from beginning to end.

As with all KCAT productions, local actors flex their muscle and always give rock-solid performances. “A Lie of the Mind” demonstrates the trend continues. Shepard’s play is rock-solid and all the characters are intense, well-developed, and full of subtleties for actors to understand and project. With Kansas City’s abundance of Broadway caliber actors, director Cinnamon Schultz, selected perfect matches for each of the characters in this ensemble piece. This cast creates a true ensemble with each character having equal importance in the success of “A Lie of the Mind.” Shepard’s characters are richly defined, textured, multi-faceted, and extremely complex. Eight of Kansas City’s best show their abilities in this challenging piece.

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]

The cast is: Brian Paulette as Jake, Jake Walker as Frankie, Christina Schafer as Beth, Forrest Attaway as Mike, Merle Moores as Lorraine, Hillary Clemens as Sally, Gary Neal Johnson as Baylor, Jan Rogge as Meg. All create flawed characters in a flawless ensemble performance.

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Beyond the superb acting, the technical aspects equaled the stage performances. Set design split the two families and always played to the same side of the stage. Dramatic and staged lighting allowed for one set to illuminate as the other darkened so scene changes did not slow the story. Actors could change while the audience focused on the lit areas, making the show seamless. Sound design added another dimension as the country music, specially written for this production helped fill any gaps without interrupting the natural flow of the piece. Props and costumes only added a nice texture to the piece.

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Led by director, Cinnamon Schultz, the production team is; Bret Engle, scenic designer; Gretchen Halle, costume designer; Ashley Kok, lighting designer; Jonathan Robertson, sound designer; William J. Christie, properties designer; Alex Murphy, stage manager; Jonathan Robertson, composer; Rita Sobbing, assistant stage manager, Kyle Dyck, technical director.

[media-credit name=”Mike Tsai & KCAT” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Opening night patrons were treated to a pre-show concert by Country Duo, Kassy Rausch and Marco Pascolini. “Lie of the Mind” continues through Oct. 1 at Union Station. For tickets, go to the KCAT website.

Tags: KCAT, Kansas City Actors Theatre, Union Station, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, “A Lie of the Mind”

Reviews

  • 5
  • 5

    Score

User Rating: 0 ( 0 Votes )



Leave a Reply

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On Linkedin