Lie With Me Theatre Review - Taking Family Dysfunction to a New Extreme

Deana is dying. (Emily Morrison) The victim of brain cancer, she is entering her final days on this earth and try as she might, lucid thought eludes her. Standing vigil at her bedside is her husband, Stan (Christian Lebano). He hovers over Deanna every moment, trying to decipher her dying declarations. The only thing that he can translate for certain is that it has to do with their daughters. Dutifully, he sets forth to fulfill the request.

(l to r) Taylor Coffman, Emily Morrison & Amber Hamilton in Lie With Me

His teenaged daughter Susan (Amber Hamilton) is easy enough to find. She hides in her room at home, listening to loud music, exorcising her loathing of the world on her own body. She is the tiny ambassador of chaos wherever she is permitted access. Unfortunately, she is Stan’s only was to contact his other estranged daughter, Carla.

Carla (Taylor Coffman) is a call girl who caters to “special needs” individuals. Much like her sister, she is brooding and angry and filled with self-hate. It is perhaps this ill-temperament that attracts filmmaker Ian (Jon Cohn) to Carla. Their relationship began as filmmaker and subject, documenting her professional activities, and grew into something more. Ian clearly wants to rescue Carla, yet he hasn’t a real clue what she needs rescuing from.

Christian Lebano & Amber Hamilton in Liw With Me

Deana slips into a coma by the time Carla comes to see her ailing mother. The truth that Stan and Carla had an affair is revealed to Ian, by Susie in warped fit of jealous. Alas, everything about Carla now makes sense to Ian; everything except that she does not see herself as a victim in the whole demented family dysfunction. The perverse circus of events threatens to fly completely out of control when Stan sees Deanna’s impending death as an opportunity to rekindle the romance with the love of his life, his daughter Carla.

Meanwhile, everyone waits for Deana to die; or for her to come out of her coma to render her last blessings, her last words of wisdom, or her forgiveness.

For much of the play, the characters seem to circle each other in a sick merry-go-round of pain and daggers flying to hurt each other. They are on a collision course, but with what is unclear. It seems that hurting each other is the only normal that they know.

The cast of Lie With Me, running at Art/Works Theatre on Santa Monica Blvd.

This play is more than a little twisted. Playwright Keith Bridges has crafted a truly disturbing tale is family dysfunction that manages to ring true on all the right notes. There is an authenticity in the way these characters accept their roles within the twisted family structure; in acquiescence to their place in the world as it were. The simultaneous resistance and acceptance of their circumstances is intriguing. The ballast of the play is the wicked ironic humor threaded throughout, providing a great balance to all the heightened hurtful drama going on.

The Mutineer Theatre Company chose an extremely complex and nuanced piece as their inaugural production. This material, however, is a bit too challenging for this new ensemble who have yet to finding their rhythm as a company. While individual performances were fine, the company as a whole simply lacked chemistry.

Lie With Me is not a feel good time at the theater. It is, however, both a portrayal of the myriad of ways physical and emotional abuse can be exacted, and a fascination examination of the family dynamic where its members are the abusers and the abused.

Lie With Me, directed by Joe Banno, will run at the Art/Works Theatre through April 5, 2009. 

Art/Works Theatre
6569 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
Sundays @7pm

Tickets are $18

For more information call: 323-960-7787

Photo Credit: Natalie Young

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