Sunday, February 24, 2013

Freud's Last Session, a Yawn

by Pa Rock
Theatre Goer

It is September 3, 1939.  Hitler's Nazi war machine is busy invading Poland, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is making sporadic radio announcements trying to calm the British people, and famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is pacing the study of his London home awaiting the arrival of his invited guest, Christian theorist and novelist, C.S. Lewis.  It will be their first and last meeting.

Freud's Last Session by Mark St. Germain is currently playing at the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix.  The show is an imagined dialogue between Sigmund Freud, an outspoken atheist with Jewish roots, who is in his eighties and dying of jaw cancer, and C.S. Lewis, an Oxford professor and writer who has spent part of his life denying the existence of God, but has returned to the Christian fold.  These two men play out their discussion on whether God exists or not before a backdrop of impending war.

J. Michael Flynn (as Sigmund Freud) and Benjamin Evett (as C.S. Lewis) bring their roles to life and give convincing performances as the two great men in this fictional encounter.  Flynn, in particular conveys the misery and pain that Freud is enduring with his ill-fitting mouth appliance that is supposed to be helping protect and hide the cancerous hole in his jaw.  As he suffers, and bleeds, Evett reacts with discomfort and frustration at not being able to help in a significant way.  Their conversation wends its way through suffering, air raid sirens, history, religion, suicide, and the mind of God.  It is at times light and humorous, but often steeped in philosophical despair.

The acting is exceptional and the set and technical aspects hit the mark,  but unfortunately that is not enough to warrant the time and expense required to attend this production.  The script is mired in tedium, leaving one to wonder why this particular material was chosen for production.    I left the theatre feeling that if I had encountered the same presentation on television, I would have flipped the channel.  The Arizona Theatre Company has brought some truly great plays to the Herberger over the past few years.  Sadly, Freud's Last Session is not one of them.

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