The first act of A Lie of the Mind consists of a series of short scenes, the first scene focusing on Jake, the second shifting to another locale and focusing on Beth, the third shifting back to Jake, the fourth to Beth again, and so on. The play begins with a phone conversation between Jake, a jealous man with an explosive temper, and Frankie, Jake’s brother, in which Jake gradually reveals that he has badly beaten—perhaps killed—his wife, Beth. Although she has suffered brain damage and utters an inarticulate garble of sounds and words, Beth is in fact recovering from the beating in a hospital, where Mike, her brother, comforts her. In a motel room, Jake tells Frankie why he beat his wife. Beth, who had taken a part in a play, was preparing for her role by wearing provocative clothes and perfumes, but Jake does not believe in the line that separates acting from reality. Since actors “try to believe so hard they’re the person that they actually think they become the person,” Jake was certain that Beth had been unfaithful; therefore, he beat her. Still, Jake realizes that his whole life is lost with Beth gone, and he blacks out.
At the hospital, Beth resists Mike’s insistence that she forget Jake, for the image of her husband-lover remains locked in her mind: Jake is a part of Beth’s essential self. Having brought Jake back to his boyhood room, Frankie leaves him in the care of Sally, Jake’s sister, and Lorraine, Jake’s smotheringly protective mother, who imperiously decides to cure Jake by keeping him in his room for a year. Beth’s parents, ranchers from Montana, arrive at the hospital. Baylor, the father, a gruff, aging cowboy, shows more concern for his mules than his daughter, and Meg, the mother, avoids facing her daughter’s condition. In Jake’s room, where Lorraine is baby-feeding him, Jake violently revolts against her mothering, snatches his soup, and stomps it into his bed. Lorraine arouses Jake’s jealousy by telling Jake that Frankie has gone to Montana to see Beth. Jake wants to follow Frankie, but Lorraine has hidden Jake’s pants in order to confine him to his room. Finding his father’s flight jacket, funeral flag, and ashes, Jake inquires about his father’s death. Lorraine, confused, reveals that Jake was present at his father’s death. The first act closes as Jake has a vision of Beth seductively oiling herself.
The second act of A Lie of the Mind opens with Beth and Meg overhearing Mike’s argument with a man—Frankie—who wants to come up to the ranch house. Still suffering from the beating, Beth wants to see the man she thinks is Jake, but Mike prevents her. Then Baylor enters, supporting Frankie,...
(The entire section is 1099 words.)