Entertainment » Theatre

Freud’s Last Session

by Kayla Miller
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Oct 26, 2011
David DeVries and Andrew Benator in "Freud’s Last Session"
David DeVries and Andrew Benator in "Freud’s Last Session"   (Source:Josh Lamkin)

C.S. Lewis, of "The Chronicles of Narnia" fame, was renowned for his eloquence and intelligence, particularly when discussing his place in Christendom. One of Christianity's most logical defenders, Lewis wrote both fiction and nonfiction regarding his conversion to Christianity, after much intellectual doubt.

Sigmund Freud, quite conversely, was a known atheist. A brilliant mind (with some slightly misguided theories), Freud is best known for his work on the unconscious, repression, and the ways in which sexual urges dictate our daily existences. His thoughts on religion were entirely different from Lewis, having written in multiple works that he (Freud) likened man's need for religion to a neurosis, equating God to an all-too-mortal need for a paternalistic and authoritative figure guiding our day-to-day lives. The two men never met, never conversed about their differing ideas, until now.

"Freud's Last Session" imagines a conversation between two of Europe's most well-known intellectuals on the eve of World War II. Freud, who died of oral cancer at the outset of the War in 1939, invites Lewis to his office for a final session, presumably before his death.

Freud takes issue with Lewis' stories of conversion, and wants to question the previously "reasonable" Lewis about his change of heart. What "Freud's Last Session" lacks in scene changes, score, or costumery, it more than makes up for in dialogue. The play is housed completely within one act, never straying from the conversation between these intellectuals -- a conversation that is at once stirring and witty, with a fair dose of humor to balance out the play's heavy overriding themes: the existence of God, the suffering of man, the context of history, and ultimately, the question of death.

Freud’s death looms over the play as if waiting in the rafters, and the coughing and sputtering of the old man as he deals with his mouth prosthesis lends weight to an already saddled-down script.

Freud's death looms over the play as if waiting in the rafters, and the coughing and sputtering of the old man as he deals with his mouth prosthesis (a result of the oral cancer) lends weight to an already saddled-down script.

The play's two actors were nevertheless sublime as their subsequent characters. C.S. Lewis (Andrew Benator) is at once caring and dignified, an acute portrait of the Englishman and his mannerisms. Sigmund Freud (David De Vries) is, without gushing, perfect -- smart and witty, De Vries captures an intelligent man with a subversive sense of humor (after all, if you're going to build your scientific career on the discussion of the oral, anal, and phallic life stages, a sense of humor is mandatory).

What "Freud's Last Session" lacks in some areas -- Freud, for instance, is not given a true mouthpiece to make a rational argument against religion, and is instead almost entirely on the defensive throughout the play -- it more than compensates for with its bright humor, its superb acting, and the timeliness and topicality of its subject matter.

In a modern nation where political parties are intermingled with personal religious beliefs, causing strict divisions and disunity amongst the people, "Freud's Last Session" depicts two men who, despite their differing belief systems, respect one another for their ideas and their intellect.

While the play's conclusion may not bring its audience any closer to divinity, it is nevertheless entirely compelling, giving them more than enough to discuss on the ride home.

"Freud’s Last Session" runs through November 4 at Theatrical Outfit, 84 Luckie Street NW, in Atlanta. For info or tickets, call 404-577-5257 or visit www.theatricaloutfit.org

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