The play is set in 1939, when Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis and an atheist) is near the end of his life and in pain from advanced oral cancer. He is in exile in London, having been forced to leave his native Austria due to the rising threat of the Nazis. Lewis (perhaps best known as the author of the Chronicles of Narnia but also an accomplished author on the subject of Christianity) is teaching at Oxford and pays Freud a visit. What follows is a fascinating discussion of God, religion, sex, relationships, death, family, evil, morality, and myths. The war and Freud's impending death bring an immediacy to these theoretical issues, as the conversation is occasionally halted by air raids and Freud's increasing pain. Playwright Mark St. Germain has brilliantly constructed this conversation with facts from the men's life as well as their writing. And in the persons of Robert Dorfman and Peter Christian Hansen, Freud and Lewis come to life before our eyes.
There are only two flaws in this play. One, it's too short. I could easily spend another hour or two listening to Robert and Peter as Freud and Lewis debate the very essence of life. The other flaw is that it's impossible to watch both of them at once, which is perhaps more a flaw of human vision. I wanted to watch one's reaction as the other was speaking, but also wanted to watch the speaker at the same time. It's like watching a tennis match between two brilliant and equally matched players (or at least I assume that's what it's like, I don't watch tennis). I found myself nodding in agreement with one, and then the other, as they made their points. In the end it's clear that it's not about who "wins" the debate, it's about two people sharing their opposing viewpoints and gaining a better understanding of the other. Neither is swayed from their position, but they respect each other's opinion and try to understand it as they debate. How I wish people on opposing sides of arguments today could converse like Freud and Lewis do in this play.
|C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud ponder the big questions|
(Peter Christian Hansen and Robert Dorfman)
Freud's Last Session is a wonderful play, so smart, challenging, thought-provoking, moving, and even funny at times. It will thoroughly engage your brain and maybe even get you to think about your own life and beliefs a little. My friend and I stayed in the theater talking until we were kicked out of the space. It's that kind of play. If you like smart, thoughtful, well-written and well-acted theater, go see Freud's Last Session (playing now through March 16).