“Freud’s Last Session” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review ran on KBAQ Radio February 18, 2013

Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ
“Freud’s Last Session” invites audiences into an intellectually revealing meeting between novelist/scholar and Christian Philosopher C. S. Lewis and psychologist Sigmund Freud that may never have occurred.  The men discuss their diametrically opposing views about the existence of God.  Lewis believed in God while Freud was an atheist.The hypothetical meeting developed by playwright Mark St. Germain occurred in September, 1939, just weeks before Freud died of jaw cancer caused by cigar smoking.  During the meeting, requested by Freud, the men debate their well developed thinking on God’s existence, but also their feelings on love, sex, myths, plus the meaning of life and death.  It allows neither man to win because the play lets audiences think about each man’s beliefs and decide whom they think is right.  As the play progresses and each man expresses his thoughtful sentiments, the audience moves with these men as they decide for themselves about these subjects.Since the play takes place in Freud’s London study about a year after his British arrival, there is little action so the play relies on a detailed character study of the two intellectual giants.  Freud’s lifelong Viennese residence is mentioned as is his forced departure after the Nazi’s arrival when Freud’s Jewish heritage caused him to pay his way out of his beloved home.  The horrible effects of Freud’s cancer on his final days are also revealed.Stephen Wrentmore’s production is impeccably nuanced as each character displays interesting character aspects.  Each man’s reaction to the other’s comments is carefully etched.  The setting is brilliantly designed and lit by Kent Dorsey and each man’s costume tells further details.  The production’s greatest asset is the two impeccable performances delivered by J. Michael Flynn as Freud and Benjamin Evett as Lewis.  Flynn makes Freud’s infirmities convincingly real as the cancer that caused 33 operations and removed Freud’s upper jaw and palate further traumatized Freud.  But in spite of the pain and discomfort, Flynn lets us see that Freud’s astonishing mind never slows.  No less remarkable is Evett’s Lewis, a vibrant and fast-thinking man who was once a non-believer who has turned back into a believer for many reasons.  The subtle details each actor conveys make them become the characters they portray.It’s rare that theater provides such a fascinating glimpse into two remarkable thinkers.  Make sure you arrive early and read the superb program notes about the play and the characters.  “Freud’s Last Session” will appeal to those ready for a fascinating discussion about some interesting topics.  “Freud’s Last Session” continues through March 3.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.Grade: A