Pittsburgh Public Theater continues its long standing tradition of presenting intellectually stimulating theater productions with the launch of FREUD'S LAST SESSION, Mark St. Germain's acclaimed play about an imagined meeting between legendary psychoanalyst and outspoken atheist Sigmund Freud (David Wohl) and Christian writer C.S. Lewis (Jonathan Crombie).
Allen Moyers’ richly designed set – a towering library filled with an endless sea of books, is the perfect setting to host this meeting of the minds as they debate the existence of God, and along the way play point counterpoint on topics like free will, science, myths, joy, pain, the New Testament, family, and of course, sex.
The tone of the 75 minutes of dialogue is set early on, when Lewis goes on a bit of an apologetic ramble, assuming that Freud has read and is displeased with his criticism of him in Lewis’ recent book. The play’s balance of serious debate, with frequent interjections of light humor is revealed when Freud allows Lewis to drone on apologetically at length, and finally, with perfect comic timing, reveals, ‘I did not read your book.’
Once Freud reveals to Lewis that he was invited to engage in an intellectual debate session, Lewis remains appropriately reverential towards Freud, yet maintains a stronghold on his intensely devout Christian viewpoints as the two engage in an exercise in intellectual jousting. Wohl effectively portrays Freud with a sense of self-aggrandizement, yet also as one struggling with the physical effects of a declining battle with oral cancer, evidenced by deliberate, labored speech patterns that make us realize his underlying vulnerabilities.
The steady back and forth banter is interrupted with moments of high drama at the play’s midpoint and ending; first, as both men set aside their debate on theology and scramble for their gas masks during a false air raid alert, and more jarringly at the culmination of the play when the ravages of oral cancer on Freud are shockingly revealed with a gory medical emergency, portrayed by Wohl with horrific reality. Crombie’s Lewis is stunned, as is the audience, but he touchingly and bravely helps Freud through the medical crisis, subconsciously engaging the audience to reflect on the meaning of the interjection of this thought-provoking metaphor.
FREUD'S LAST SESSION is perfect for those who enjoy an evening of cerebral stimulation, peppered with intelligent wit. The show is running now through April 1 at the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s O’Reilly Theater. For tickets call 412.316.1600 or visit ppt.org.