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Review: Freud's Last Session at Phoenix

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Gordon McCall as Freud (left) and Scot Greenwell as C.S. Lewis can't quite see eye to eye in 'Freud's Last Session.' - ZACH ROSING
  • Zach Rosing
  • Gordon McCall as Freud (left) and Scot Greenwell as C.S. Lewis can't quite see eye to eye in 'Freud's Last Session.'

Imagining what it would be like to bring historical figures together — how they might behave in one another’s presence, what they might say — is an engaging mind game that, on the surface, seems tailor made for theater. That’s certainly the appeal of Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain. Here the playwright creates a meeting between the dying Sigmund Freud, a resolute atheist, and the Christian intellectual, C.S. Lewis.

The atmosphere is charged by world events; Freud compulsively turns to his radio for news of Hitler’s invasion of Poland. In the meantime, what we get is an exercise in civility for two voices. In the relatively short running time of this play, Freud and Lewis spar about the existence of God, the meaning of free will, faith versus science, sex and the right to die.

Director William Fisher manages this talk with aplomb and his actors, Scot Greenwell (Lewis) and Gordon McCall (Freud) shade their characterizations sufficiently to humanize characters that might otherwise come off as articulate mileposts on the way to a Great Books seminar. Their compassionate willingness to disagree with one another, while staunchly holding to their respective codes, is perhaps this play’s greatest pleasure. It is also, arguably, its drawback. While St. Germain does an admirable job of presenting his duo’s respective philosophies, this also keeps the two men locked in place.

The thrill of drama is its ability to reveal transformation. Although both men seem touched by their encounter, neither is really changed. St. Germain’s meeting concludes without an imaginative leap. Through April 15 at Phoenix Theatre.

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