Odyssey Opens New Year With Off-Broadway Hit
Intellectual debate and food for thought: Odyssey Theatre Ensemble presents Mark St. Germain's off-Broadway hit, Freud's Last Session. Emmy Award-winner Robert Mandel directs for a January 13 opening, with performances continuing through March 4 at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A.Suggested by the book "The Question of God" by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., the play imagines a meeting between the father of psychoanalysis, Dr. Sigmund Freud, and rising Oxford don and author C.S. Lewis, newly converted to Christianity. The conversation takes place in London on Sept. 3, 1939 - the day England entered World War II, and just two weeks before Freud, in the advanced stages of oral cancer, took his own life. Freud (Martin Rayner, in the role he created for the world premiere production at the Barrington Stage Company, off-Broadway at New World Stages and in Chicago at The Mercury Theatre) invites the younger Lewis (Martyn Stanbridge, whose theater work includes UK tours of The Graduate, Rebecca, Dangerous Obsession and Lotty's War) to his home, where they engage in a brain-teasing battle of wits on the subjects of love, sex and the existence of God. Filled with humor, this deeply touching play explores the minds, hearts and souls of two brilliant men addressing the greatest questions of all time. "The debate of God's existence set against the backdrop of George VI committing Britain to WWII and Freud's last days is compelling and dramatic," says Mandel. "The dialogue is thought provoking, smart and humorous. For me, it's at its best when it moves away from theoretical discussion to the effect it has personally on Freud and Lewis." Freud's Last Session premiered at Barrington Stage Company in 2009. It opened off-Broadway at New World Stages on July 22, 2010, where it ran for two years and 775 performances, garnering the Off Broadway Alliance Award. The New York Times found it a "sharp, lively discourse... audience members searching for engaging debate will be pleased," while the Huffington Post called it "riveting... a theatrical and intellectual delight." NY1 hailed the play as "a gem... intellectually thrilling with both humor and insight in abundance...the kind of nuance that breathes life into history." The Odyssey's creative team includes set designer Pete Hickok, lighting designer Derrick McDaniel; costume designer Kim DeShazo and props designer Josh LaCour. The stage manager is Emma Whitley. Mark St. Germain's plays include Camping with Henry and Tom (Outer Critics and Lucille Lortel Awards), Dancing Lessons, Becoming Dr. Ruth, Best of Enemies, The God Committee, Scott and Hem and Out of Gas On Lover's Leap, as well as the musicals Stand By Your Man and, with Randy Courts, Gifts of the Magi, Jack's Holiday and Joseph and Mary. Television work includes The Cosby Show, and he co-wrote Carroll Ballard's film Duma. He directed and co-produced the documentary My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story and wrote the prize winning children's book Three Cups. Mark is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writer's Guild East and an Associate Artist of the Barrington Stage Company. He was awarded the New Voices In American Theatre award at the William Inge Theatre Festival. Playbill has hailed him as "America's premier biographical playwright."Robert Mandel recently took a nine-year hiatus from directing to serve as dean at the American Film Institute Conservatory. He is an award-winning film and television director with credits including F/X, School Ties, Big Shots, The Substitute, X-Files (pilot), Lost, Prison Break and Dominion. Robert won an Emmy Award for his first TV movie, Andrea's Story. He has served as a directing mentor at The Sundance Institute and won first prize for his short film, Nights at O'Rears at Filmex in LA; USA Film Festival, Dallas; and a screening at the NY Film Festival at Lincoln Center. He is the recipient of the Special Educator Award given by The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors. Mandel directed theater in NY at the Manhattan Theatre Club, The Roundabout and The Public, where Joseph Papp was his mentor. He directed regionally in Providence, Washington DC, and Syracuse. Performances of Freud's Last Session take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Jan. 13 through March 4. On Sunday, Jan. 14 only, the performance will be at 5 p.m. with no 2 p.m. matinee. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 24; Thursday, Feb. 8; Wednesday, Feb. 21; and Thursday, March 1, all at 8 p.m. Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Friday, Jan. 19 and Wednesday, Jan. 24. Tickets range from $30 to $35; there will be three "Tix for $10" performances on Wednesday, Jan. 24; Friday, Feb. 2; and Thursday, March 1. The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.