Two Brilliant Actors Collide As Freud and C.S. Lewis In “Freud’s Last Session” At The Rep Studio

Barry Mulholland as Dr. Freud and Jim Butz as C. S. Lewis in the Rep Studio production of "Freud's Last Session." Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Barry Mulholland as Dr. Freud and Jim Butz as C. S. Lewis in the Rep Studio production of “Freud’s Last Session.” Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

We’ve all heard people say about great actors, “I’d listen to him read the phone book.” Well, it wasn’t exactly the phone book, but two superb actors turn the somewhat repetitive script for “Freud’s Last Session” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Studio into great theatre. Aided by wonderful technical aspects and outstanding direction, we learn many things we didn’t know about each man but they are fighting a losing battle by trying to defend their stands on religion and science.

This perceived meeting between the two great thinkers of the time, Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis never really happened but playwright Mark St. Germain created a drama around each men’s words and concepts to create a discussion not unlike the one between Shakespeare and Shaw in “Frogs.” Both men grew up in religious households and attended services and were drilled with the often confining credos of their respective religions. Where Freud drifted and became cynical- denying the existence of a God, C. S. Lewis drifted but soon embraced Christianity, even though he struggled with it his entire life. As he states early on in the play, “the greatest problem with Christianity is the Christians.” Their ideologies collide on stage but really offer nothing new from the lives we’re already familiar with. The real tension in the play is provided by the two fine actors and Freud’s descent into his affliction of cancer of the mouth. This offers some almost unbearable tension at times and also tends to give the “points” in the argument to the compassion and God-fearing demeanor of Lewis.

Barry Mulholland as Freud contemplates the latest news about the war in the Rep's "Freud's Last Session." Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Barry Mulholland as Freud contemplates the latest news about the war in the Rep’s “Freud’s Last Session.” Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Barry Mulholland is striking as Doctor Freud. His stature and occasional moments of pure rage solidify his character and make him truly believable. Jim Butz is equally effective as the quiet and contemplative C. S. Lewis as he, as well, takes on the persona of the novelist and defends his stand on religion over science to explain the world. These two actors hold the audience in thrall throughout the almost hour and a half one act. It’s a startling performance of give and take by both men as they attempt to defend their stands when we know, in the end, both will cling to their chosen path and not succumb to the arguments of the other. Watching them work together while also showing mutual respect for each other is the stuff of powerful theatre.

Director Michael Evan Haney returns to the Rep and turns an often uninspired script into a work of art. From the radio broadcasts of imminent danger from Hitler (the play is set in 1939 on the eve of WWII) to the clashes of wills, he makes the play move at a good pace and brings out the best including the occasional jolt of humor. The ending with Freud finally listening to the BBC broadcast of music after the latest news bulletin is a poignant moment.

Set designers Peter and Margery Spack provide a beautiful and frightening picture with the idyllic study of Freud leading out to a beautiful garden but edged with burnt out floorboards and war-like remembrances bordering the otherwise peaceful setting. The only thing that really bothered me a little was the curly phone cord- at that time I believe the phone would have sported a cloth-wrapped cord. Elizabeth Eisloeffel’s costumes are perfectly period while James Sale’s lights and the sound design of Benjamin Marcum add to the magic of the production.

“Freud’s Last Session” is powerful theatre and has already been extended through November 24th. To see two fine actors tackle these historical icons is something very special. Call the Rep box office at 314-968-4925 to see this Studio Theatre production of “Freud’s Last Stand.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: