BWW Reviews: FREUD'S LAST SESSION Delivers an Entertaining Dose of Theatrical Therapy
This highly unusual play, set in London in September 1939, on the eve of World War II, imagines a meeting between Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and writer C.S.Lewis, then a young professor at Oxford.
Freud, played by Gregory Wagrowski, is an analytical thinker, scientist and lifelong atheist, who, at the age of 83, is now dying of oral cancer. (The meeting allegedly took place just two weeks before Freud killed himself.)
Lewis, played by Scott Harrison, is 41 and a former non-believer, who has now embraced Christianity. In Freud's book-lined study, complete with couch, and in real time (about 90 minutes, with no interval) the two men embark on a riveting, intellectual fencing match, set in motion by Freud's admission that he had wanted to meet Lewis,' to learn how a man of your intellect could suddenly abandon truth and embrace an insidious lie.'
Freud regards God as an illusion, arising from Man's need for a powerful parent figure. 'Why should I take Christ's word that he was God, any more than I believe any one of my patients, who calls himself God?' he asks. But Lewis, the convert, is not to be deterred, arguing, 'There is a God… and a man does not have to be an imbecile to believe in him.'
Thanks to the engaging, fast-paced dialogue, liberally laced with wit, jokes and good-natured humor, the play keeps the audience involved and entertained from start to finish. Considering it has just one act, one scene, a cast of two and virtually no action, that's no mean achievement. Special credit goes to the director, Jacqueline Reid, who did an outstanding job with this production.
Wagrowski delivers a very credible impression of Freud, a man racked with pain, but whose intellectual capacities are still clearly intact. His physical distress, severe enough to cause him to collapse on his own couch at one point, is so convincing that you could hear a pin drop.
The humanity of both men comes through in the ongoing sparring match between these two great minds, as they debate the existence of God, religion, free will, relationships, sex, love and the meaning of life itself.
As CS Lewis, Harrison conveys the young Oxford don's initial tentativeness, when first entering the great man's study. But it doesn't take long for the spirited conversation to draw him out as an intellectual equal. The tension between the two men is palpable, as is their chemistry, and both actors deserve special credit for creating and maintaining a relationship that can keep an audience enthralled for 11/2 hours. In spite of their differences, Lewis can't help warming to Freud, the man, and the two finally part company with genuine affection and a deepened respect for each other's views.
And don't be put off by the title; you don't need a degree in psychology to enjoy FREUD'S LAST SESSION. The topics are universal, well presented and thought provoking - the play is currently in production in several other countries - and it's guaranteed to set you thinking about your own views on these fundamentally important issues.
The Fusion Theatre Company's production of FREUD'S LAST SESSION runs through November 15 and then transfers to the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe for three performances, November 16 and 17. So, if The Cell is already sold out, do yourself a favor and take a trip up I-25 to the Lensic, a much larger venue with a much greater seating capacity. You'll be very glad you did!
For info, visit www.fusionabq.org and/or www.lensic.org
photo courtesy of Betsy Heimlich