BWW Review: FREUD'S LAST SESSION Is A Rousing Debate At A.D. Players
Imagine this: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud spend an afternoon in a fusty, book-strewn study in the middle of London during the World War II. They argue about the existence of God, faith, the subtext of sexuality, oral fixations, and the merits of science, among other things.
It's fun to be the fly on the wall, and that's one of the many intriguing aspects of FREUD'S LAST SESSION.
Directed by Christy Watkins, this rather tempestuous one-act is mentally engaging and seems timely amidst our polarizing political and religious culture.
Mark St. Germain's play has an interesting genesis. In 1967 psychiatrist Armand M. Nicholi Jr. taught a seminar at Harvard on the atheist theory of Sigmund Freud. Per the request of students, Nicholi expanded the lecture to include ideology from C.S. Lewis, a Christian. He called the course "The Question of God". Since then, his seminar has become a book, a television program on PBS, and a successful Off-Broadway play.
The play is a debate between two accomplished men; one an atheist and hailed psychoanalyst, embittered by the disappointments in life, and the other, a self-deprecating, creative genius who believes in Christ in spite of the horrors and heartbreaks of war.
Is it a fair fight? I'm not sure. I happen to be a Christian, and as I watched the play I felt that C.S. Lewis had a leg up in the competition. Chip Simmons gives a sensitive, layered performance as the fantasy-writing author and it's easier to listen to someone who is likable, even-keeled, and not that concerned with being right. On the other hand, we have Freud, played by James Belcher, a gifted actor known for playing spit-fire, dominant roles. His Freud is cantankerous and defensive, nursing his bleeding mouth as he battles through terminal oral cancer. (Irony abounds, doesn't it?) I wanted to see the play with an atheist friend and get their take on it. Germain has definitely written from the point of view of a Christian, and many of the compelling points that are made come from C.S.Lewis, the "believer". The two actors are wonderful counterpoints for each other, giving the production an interesting mix of balance and antagonism.
FREUD'S LAST SESSION is filled with thought-provoking one-liners, including this gem: "A man can't call a line crooked if he doesn't know what a straight line is". It's a play that gets you thinking about your own beliefs, and why you believe them. Not surprisingly, the characters dig deep, and there are many lightbulb moments for the audience.
Mark A. Lewis' set is richly detailed and impressive. Freud's study is filled with books on towering shelves, with furniture and nicknacks true to the time period. The big, round window overlooking London serves as both an artistic canvas for silhouette, but also a psychological nod to world outlook.
The sound is always perfect at A.D. Players, and there isn't a bad seat in the house; one of the many reasons I keep going back for more.
FREUD'S LAST SESSION runs from October 14 - November 8.
For tickets, go to: http://www.adplayers.org/
Photo Credit: Jeff McMorrough