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April 12, 2012

ShowBizQ:
'Freud's Last Session' Gives Us The Great Debate

BY
MICHAEL J. ROBERTS

'Freud's Last Session' Gives Us The Great Debate
There are few pieces of theatre currently running that are as palpable as the amazing ‘Freud's Last Session'. Placing C.S. Lewis, who has an unfettered believe in God and the Bible with Sigmund Freud, who limits his spirituality to scientific fact is utterly genius. Combined with the original cast of Mark H. Dold (Lewis) and Martin Rayner (Freud), this is an experience that makes you appreciate what truly great theatre can do to the mind and spirit….that is, make you think.

Surely, this is not the first time these bombastic questions have been debated. Just flip on any conservative radio station or Fox news for that matter and you can hear this chatter amplified with morons not equipped with the mental capacity to understand the grandiose nature of the debate. In ‘Freud's Last Session', you have the ultimate crusaders for their position who have the fortitude to back up their stance, if not the humility. Moreover, what makes it even more fascinating in their debate as to whether God exists, is their ability to listen to each other and maybe, just maybe, concede a little to each other's position.

Written by Mark St. Germain (yes, of the Cosby Show), ‘Freud's Last Session' bowed off-Broadway in the summer of 2010 to rave reviews and is still playing to sold out houses. Keeping the original cast and creative team in-tact, including director Tyler Merchant, the Chicago engagement is at the Mercury Theatre, which coincidentally, was the home for the ‘The Screwtape Letters', penned by C.S. Lewis.

‘Freud's Last Session' takes place on the scholar's estate on the day England enters World War II. Gas masks and air drills are now a part of their everyday lives. So is Freud's rapidly declining health, suffering from oral cancer, he wears a mouth prosthetic which is a result from a botched surgery to remove a lymphoma. Freud's imminent death and his choice to commit suicide are also debated as are the joy of love, the purpose of sex, and the meaning of life. Quite a task for a 90 minute play, but each subject is given its turn and its respect. No side is right or wrong. Just an intellectual manifestation of two minds who each have changed the course of how we philosophize some of the greatest questions of all time.

After countless performances together, Mr. Dold and Mr. Rayner have their characters down cold. They listen, they move, they respond and they respect each other. There is a comradery between the two actors that moves through the audience and by the end of the performance, when you know what is coming next for Freud, there is a great subtle emotional climax that few performers can match.

Brian Prather's intricate and masculine set design masterfully lit by Clifton Taylor also lend to this phenomenal intellectual theatrical experience.

‘Freud's Last Session' runs through June 3, 2012 at the Mercury Theatre, 3725 N. Southport, Chicago. For tickets, please call (773) 325.1700 or visit

MercuryTheaterChicago MercuryTheatreChicago.com.



 
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