Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
October 24, 2014
A discourse on the existence of God. You wouldn’t think it would be the stuff of drama. But when the debaters are Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and Oxford professor C.S. Lewis, lay theologian and creator of Narnia, you’d be surprised how lively the conversation can get.
The meeting of these two brilliant minds never really took place. Playwright Mark St. Germain just imagined it, and his 2009 play ran for two years Off Broadway.
We’re in Freud’s London study in 1939, on the eve of World War II. An air raid interrupts the interaction, and each man dives fearfully for his gas mask. It’s two weeks before Freud’s death, and he’s suffering mightily from the oral cancer that was killing him – though he lights up a cigar during the interview. In fact, by that time, Freud could barely walk or talk, but in fantasy and dreams – as both these inventive thinkers well know – anything is possible.
The 83 year-old Freud summons the much-younger Lewis because he’s annoyed. They’d both been staunch atheists; why did Lewis go over to the other side? Lewis lays out his epiphany. Freud insists that belief in God is “patently infantile.” Does anyone actually win the debate? Well, you’ll have to see North Coast Repertory Theatre’s marvelous production to find out.
Gorgeously designed, beautifully lit, with an outstanding sound design and superb props, the piece is a perfect fit for an intimate theater. And under the astute and detailed direction of David Ellenstein, who has cast two consummate actors, it could satisfy thinking theatergoers for a long time to come.
Michael Santo has all the irascible bombast of the intractable Freud, and Bruce Turk is delightful as Lewis, amusing, intelligent and almost unflappable. They’re a delectable duo, and we’re privileged to be flies on this cerebral wall. But the opportunity won’t last forever. Go see “Freud’s Last Session.” God may – or may not – be waiting for you there.
“Freud’s Last Session” runs through November 9, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
©2014 PAT LAUNER