There is a couch on the set of Freud’s Last Session, the two-handed drama that opened at Amphibian Stage Productions. But this is not a show that wants to make anybody comfortable.
This play by Mark St. Germain imagines a meeting between the great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and British writer (and part-time theologian) C.S. Lewis in the former’s London home in the dawning hours of what would come to be known as World War II.
The subjects at play between these two learned and blazingly articulate men are not ids, egos and super egos, or even lions, witches and wardrobes. Instead, the much older Freud has invited Lewis into his home to debate the existence of God. Lewis says He is. Freud says he ain’t.
This crossing of intellectual swords takes place on exactly the lofty plain you would expect. Both men have arguments that are well rehearsed and both are masters of effective rebuttal. They circle one another, throwing a jab here and making a feint there, while looking for an opening to throw a fatal haymaker.
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They both have hot buttons. Freud doesn’t much like talking about his relationships with family members, and Lewis is extremely uncomfortable with the topic of sex. At different points (and for different reasons) both men do some time on Freud’s couch during their ecclesiastical give and take.
The acting in this production, deftly directed in the round by Rene Moreno, is sparkling. Michael Corolla delivers a highly believable Freud, and John-Michael Marrs is ideally cast as the devout Lewis.
It is also an exceptionally tidy show that is presented without an intermission and runs a brisk 65 minutes.
So the staging and performances are virtually flawless. But the show itself is more problematic. Although incredibly well-written, it is ultimately more an academic debate than a night of entertainment at the theater.
Also, most people have made up their minds about the issues in this play before buying a ticket. Nothing presented here is going to make anybody change sides.
If you are up for an evening of graduate-level, theological wrangling, go for it. But, with so many outstanding shows up in our area right now, it is hard to make the choice to spend an hour watching two dead guys argue about whether God exists or not.