A Lie of the Mind

by Sam Shepard

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

This play follows two families as they attempt to navigate the aftermath of catastrophic spousal abuse. Jake, son of Lorraine and brother of Frankie and Sally, has abused his wife, Beth, so viciously that he believes her to be dead. Meanwhile, Beth is actually in the hospital, having suffered significant brain damage as a result of the beating. Her brother, Mike, is there to help in her recovery, and her parents, Baylor and Meg, eventually come to see her. Lorraine takes Jake home to recover, as he seems to be experiencing alcohol withdrawal while under Frankie's care. He does not get better, and he actually begins to grow paranoid that Frankie (who has left to check on Beth) and Lorraine are conspiring against him. He enlists his sister to help him escape.

Beth, having been brought home to Montana by her parents, fails to improve in many ways. Although her speech gets better, her confusion grows worse, and when Frankie appears—after he is kicked off the property by Mike and accidentally shot by Baylor—she begins to mistake him for Jake. In the end, Jake arrives to check on Frankie, as he now believes that Frankie has been wanting to sleep with Beth, and Mike chains him up and tries to force him to apologize. Rather than do so, he professes his love to Beth, but she now seems to love Frankie. However, Frankie has septicemia as a result of his untreated leg wound, and he will likely die soon. Meanwhile, Lorraine and Sally plan to burn their house and all its terrible memories to the ground and then travel to Ireland to find family. It is unclear what, exactly, will happen to everyone else.

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