Anything is possible in a family, the psychotherapeutic cliché has it. But surely not this. Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind is a work of art, but it’s made from Jerry Springer, movie-of-the-week stuff: Jake is married to Beth, and he calls his brother from a roadside phone booth late at night to confess that he has beaten her to death. He hasn’t: He’s merely beaten her into a brain-damaged stupor. Jake’s Freudian nightmare of a mother dismisses the crime without a second thought, saying that the woman must have had it coming. His slightly more put-together brother, Frankie, however, doubts the story and decides to investigate—and possibly to make amends, to the extent that such a thing is possible. So he tracks Beth down at her family’s remote Montana home. Alternating between incoherence and lucidity, she maintains that she still loves Jake but attempts to seduce...

 
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