Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Rep Theatre Presents "Freud's Last Session" by Mark St. Germain - Through May 22nd

(Caveat: Several weeks ago I underwent rotator cuff surgery, and my right shoulder, arm and hand have been immobilized in a sling until very recently. I just began several months of post-op physical therapy.  I had been severely hampered in my ability to type, so several worthy shows that I have seen recently have not been reviewed in a timely manner.  Beginning with today, I will work to clear up the backlog.  Please be aware that my reviews may be more limited than usual until I am up to date. Several excellent shows are no longer playing, but I will highlight them, offering the assurance that when it comes time to submit my suggestions for nominations for the 2016 IRNE Awards, these shows and the people involved with them, will receive the consideration they deserve. Thank you for your understanding and support.)

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<-align: center=""> New Rep Theatre closes its 2015-2016 season with the thoughtful two-hander play, "Freud's Last Session," written by Mark St. Germain and Directed by Jim Petosa. I am pleased that I am able to offer a review of this fine play while there are still a few remaining opportunities for you to catch a performance at the Arsenal Center for the Arts.   The play closes this coming Sunday, May 22nd.

The premise of the play is that Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, who never met in life, have one climactic meeting with one another as Freud was near the end of his life.  The purpose is to discuss their diametrically opposed views of the universe.  Freud, despite his Jewish heritage, was a confirmed atheist, and Lewis was a convert to Christianity late in life.  In life, Lewis would have been aware of Freud's fame and philosophies, and even commented on them in his own writings.  The playwright was inspired to write this imaginary meeting based on the book, "The Question of God" by Harvard professor Dr. Armand M. Nicholi. The play is well-balanced, giving both the theistic view and the atheistic view equal time and weight as the dialogue flows back and forth.

While there are tense moments when Lewis and Freud challenge one another, it is done in the spirit of what Thomas Aquinas would call "disputatio" - civil discourse and disputation.  One could only wish that our current crop of politicians could adopt that same spirit of civility in carrying out their raucous disputes.

Christina Todesco has conceived of a visually arresting set, with spirals that are emblematic of a Lewis quotation: " . . . nothing 'stays put.' One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I doing up or down it?"  Scattered pages of manuscripts cover the floor, emblematic of Freud's worship of words as having "magical power." The center of the set represents Freud's study, complete with analyst's couch. The set is beautifully lit by Scott Pinkney, with Sound by David Remedios and appropriately subdued costumes by Molly Trainer.
Joel Colodner as Sigmund Freud and Shelley Bolman as C.S. Lewis
New Rep Theatre
Arsenal Center for the Arts
Through May 22nd
Photo by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures
At the center of the action are two fine actors.  Joel Colodner is a very convincing curmudgeonly Freud, plagued with pain from the cancer of his mouth that is ebbing away his strength.  Shelley 
Bolman is every bit Clive Staples Lewis, the Oxford Don and Renaissance literature scholar who penned the fantastic "Chronicles of Narnia" as well as the spiritual memoir, "Mere Christianity.

No matter where you stand on the theism-atheism continuum, I guarantee that you will find food for thought in the back and forth banter that Freud and Lewis share with each other.  Unseen daughter, Anna Freud, plays a significant role in the arc of the conversation, with Freud interrupting the session on several occasions to call her on the telephone to bark out orders to her.  Things get dicey when Lewis tries to apply some of Freud's own theories to the psychiatrist's relationship with his daughter.

"Freud's Last Session" runs through the end of this weekend at Arsenal Center for the Arts.

New Rep Website



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