Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain, Barrington Stage Company Production, The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre at the West Side Y. (Off-Broadway). 1st Run: July 22-November 27, 2010, 2nd Run: 1/14/11-open run.
Reviewed by Becca Kidwell
What would happen if Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis took a meeting? That is the premise of Mark St. Germain’s play Freud’s Last Session. Freud, played by Martin Rayner, invites the young scholar CS Lewis, played by Mark H. Dold, to find out how someone who had been a rational atheist could be deluded into believing in the “myth” of Christianity. Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.’s book, The Question of God, influenced St. Germain to posit what might transpire between these strong individuals.
Brian Prather designed a luxurious study for Freud that provides a solemn, yet comfortable area for the men to bounce words off the walls. The set and props often serve as a springboard for analysis of Freud’s personality. One interesting set of props is Freud’s collection of Egyptian and Greek god statues; Lewis uses them to question Freud’s beliefs of atheism. Another piece is a radio used only for the news because Freud does not want his emotions influenced by music; Lewis questions Freud’s fear of emotion.
Mark H. Dold plays a brash, somewhat cheeky Lewis that can hold his own against Freud. Lewis does not shy away from any topic of conversation and shows that he is neither in fancy nor conceited, but someone who earnestly wants to discuss the topics at hand. Martin Rayner provides balance as a physically weak, but mentally sound Freud who might commit suicide within a few days. Freud tries to trap Lewis in certain situations, but Lewis comes back with sensible rebuttals. Neither party comes out on top but leaves all of the arguments lingering in the air.
Freud’s Last Session’s tension does not come from cataclysm—except for Freud’s own personal battle with himself. The conflict arises from Lewis and Freud’s incredibly civil, yet complex discourse. This show is for people who want to critically analyze the subjects of God, sex, and life; it’s a place to challenge beliefs and then go and debate with friends afterwards over cheesecake.