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Freud’s Last Session

Freud’s Last Session

by Mark St. Germain

By Jamie Newsom

Runs Jan. 7-27

Imagine if C.S. Lewis, famously Christian, and Sigmund Freud, famously atheist, met and talked about their beliefs. The two were never actually known to have met, but in this script by Mark St. Germain, we can get an idea, perhaps, of what they may have said to each other.

Based on, or suggested by, the book “The Question of God” by Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., this is more of an extended dialogue than a play, peppered by small bits of action. The staging, acting and directing are all done finely. Krista Schwarting directs Dick Reichman (Freud) and Kevin Bennett (Lewis) with a solid, yet light touch. Regular Anchorage theatergoers would expect nothing less than precise and capable work from these three, and they deliver.

There is nothing in the staging to distract from the script, which is provocative in places, but too frequently full of its own self- assurance.  In order to buy into the debate between the imagined personas of these two famous men, one must buy into the underlying premise that religion and science exist on the same spectrum. This itself is an idea perhaps best explored elsewhere besides the stage.

In any case, the play sets the scene well: Freud is ill – at the final stages of an oral cancer that causes him extreme pain and necessitates him wearing a prosthetic palette in what used to be the roof of his mouth. C.S. Lewis has come to visit him in London, just as the city is evacuating after entering WWII. The war is used here as a metaphorical backdrop – an air raid causes both men to examine their own and each other’s reactions to an immediate death threat.

Freud tries to psychoanalyze Lewis; Lewis rebuffs his attempts as too simple. Freud makes simple work of Lewis’ need an acceptance of religion, there is name dropping (Tolkien!) there is a bit of sex talk, and talk of sin, namely the assisted suicide that Freud would commit just a few weeks later.

Considering religion in the face of bald atheism is usually interesting – here it is too.  The play is short enough that there isn’t time to get bored, and both actors move about the stage and bring the sort of life to their roles that keeps the audience engaged, even though we are mainly watching two men talk to each other.

It’s a clean way of presenting some very deep themes – it would have been nice, though, to see some of the events each character describes, rather than just seeing him sitting or standing there talking about them. I may have better understood, for instance, Lewis’ instant conversion from a non-believer to a devout Christian, one day, on the way to the zoo, if we had seen him have his revelation.

This play is certainly worth the short time it takes to see it.  As always, Bennett and Reichman are both a pleasure to watch onstage. The conversation on the way home is bound to be lively, no matter what side, or part of the spectrum, of the argument about a higher being you stand on.

 

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