#65. A few weeks ago, I stumbled on the in-flight movie, “A Dangerous Method.” It was about the birth of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The movie showed how legendary intellectuals advanced the field of science in the treatment of mental disorders. I knew the names. I kind of knew the theories. I didn’t know the men. Seeing the conflict between these colleagues then friends then estranged was fascinating. History remembers the end results not the actual evolution of thought.
Carolyn Rossi Copeland, Robert Stillman and Jack Thomas present the Midwest premiere of The Barrington Stage Production of FREUD’S LAST SESSION. It’s 1939. Hitler is rising in power. England is on the brink of declaring war on Germany. Sigmund Freud has fled from the Nazi-occupied Vienna. He has taken refuge in London. He’s 83 and struggling with advanced oral cancer. He has invited the popular novelist C.S. Lewis for a visit. Lewis believes he has been summoned for a reprimand for publicly criticizing Freud. He’s surprised to learn that he has been brought into debate the existence of God. The dying Freud is reevaluating his long-standing atheism. FREUD’S LAST SESSION is a witty inspirational sendoff for an icon who won’t go down without a fight.
Playwright Mark St. Germain imagined this possible meeting of the minds. St. Germain pens a scintillating banter. Lewis defends christianity. Freud mocks the notion of ‘the chosen people.‘ It’s a cerebral match to the death. Under the thoughtful direction of Tyler Marchant, the natural dialogue has balanced spontaneous amusement and intellectual depth. An off-Broadway sell-out sensation since 2010, the New York stars reprise their roles. A gravelly-voiced Martin Rayner (Freud) is the reincarnation of Freud. He perfectly mimics the therapist’s greeting as an open-ended question: ‘yessssssss’ and ‘helllllloooooo.‘ The parody is rewarded with chuckles every time. Rayner does an amazing job humanizing the legend. We see the arrogance and the vulnerability, the brilliance and the flawed. Rayner gives a powerful and painful portrayal of a man dying. There is a beautifully tender moment when Mark H. Dold (Lewis) cradles Rayner on the couch. Dold has these glimpses of sheer helplessness in his otherwise droll delivery. Dold counters Rayner with a cocky mixture of respect and determination. Even the physical contrast between a strapping Dold and hunched Rayner adds to the genuine humanity of the meeting. Rayner and Dold become these SUPER super-egos.
FREUD’S LAST SESSION psychoanalyzes what to really believe when the end is near.
A little freaked out by the mouth prothesis, Dick describes it with ‘grossly thought provoking.’
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission
At Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport
Written by Mark St. Germain
Suggested by the book “The Question of God” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.
Directed by Tyler Marchant
Wednesdays at 2pm and 7:30pm
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm
Sundays at 1pm and 5pm
Thru June 3rd
Buy Tickets at www.mercurytheaterchicago.com