BWW Reviews: FREUD'S LAST SESSION is an Enticing 'What If' Story
Be sure to catch the final week of this thoughtful play in the Guthrie Theater's intimate Dowling Studio. FREUD'S LAST SESSION is about an imagined meeting between two of the 20th century's greatest minds: legandary psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and young professor C.S. Lewis. While there was no known meeting between the two, they both lived in England at the beginning of World War II. This production makes one wish the meeting were real.
Freud, suffering from terminal cancer, invites novelist Lewis to his London home. Lewis assumes Freud is upset about having been satirized by Lewis in a recent book. But Freud has a different -- and more surprising -- agenda. As the two debate the most important questions of our existence in a witty, intellectual sword fight, their conversation ranges from God, morality, conscience and sex to the meaning of life.
Robert Dorfman's Freud is a character that inspires thought and pity. Cancer has ravaged his mouth and pain makes him edgy and irritable. With his constant chatter making him ever more uncomfortable, he simply cannot help himself and keeps talking until the pain from a prosthetic gives way to a rare moment on stage. Dorfman reveals a man whose suffering and impending death obviously have caused him to question his most basic assumptions about life, death and the existence of God, but he is fighting it intellectually to the end.
Peter Christian Hansen plays Lewis as a young man who has a hefty amount of baggage he drags around with him after time spent fighting the great war. He attempts to seem light and humorous, though his nerves betray him. The moment he believes a bomber may be coming when he jumps out of his skin reaching for a gas mask. But he also diplays remarkable selflessness when he is more concerned about staying to help an old sick man than save himself.
The setting for the meeting of faith and reason adds to the tension and timelessness of the play. Director Rob Melrose set the play on a long, narrow, raised stage with audience members facing from two sides like a boxing match. As the actors spar with their words, however, they obviously are intrigued by one another's beliefs and are both considering the merits of the other's point of view. One, an old man on the brink of death who believes that is the end but may be rethinking it as he gets more near it. The other, a young man who faced death head on, watched it snatch his friend in front of him and found God while riding in a sidecar, is still fairly sure of his viewpoint but is obviously still questioning, or at least willing to listen.
FREUD'S LAST SESSION continues through March 16 in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater. Single tickets start at $24 and are on sale through the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE, 612.225.6244 (Group Sales) and online at www.guthrietheater.org.
Photo: Robert Dorfman as Sigmund Freud and Peter Christian Hansen as C.S. Lewis in the Guthrie Theater's production of FREUD'S LAST SESSION by Mark St. Germain. Directed by Rob Melrose, set design by Michael Locher, costume design by Amy Schmidt and lighting design by Frank Butler. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.