Freud’s Last Session will make you think

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Sigmund Freud was born in Austria on May 6th 1856. He trained and became a neurologist but went on to be the founder of psychoanalysis. In 1939 he fled his native Austria to escape the advancing Nazis and spent his final days in the United Kingdom where he died on September 23rd 1939.

Writer, producer, director Mark St. Germain found a book entitled The Question of God written by Dr. Armand Nicholi. The book focused on the widely different perspectives of Sigmund Freud versus those of C. S. Lewis. This sparked a powerful thought in the mind Mark St. Germain: what if Freud and Lewis met and had a lengthy discussion about God? As so came the critically acclaimed play by Mark St Germain Freud’s Last Session an off Broadway hit and currently at The Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles.

The fictional meeting between Dr. Sigmund Freud and acclaimed Professor and prolific author C. S. Lewis at Freud’s home in exile takes place on September 23rd 1939. During a long and conflict-filled but civil discussion between the two gentlemen the matter of God and religion take center stage. Freud is a devoted atheist and finds absolutely no empirical evidence to support the existence of any divine being including God. Freud subscribes solely to his own devoted faith, science.

C.S. Lewis comes from a completely opposite perspective. He presents numerous arguments that he believes clearly demonstrate the importance of faith and the undeniable reality of God. This exchange is exquisitely presented by two very talented men; Martin Rayner as Sigmund Freud and Martyn Stanbridge as C. S. Lewis. Their exchange lasting about an hour and fifteen minutes is consistently powerful and witty, often with spikes of humor.

During the course of the discussion air raid sirens go off prompting both men to don gas masks and take cover. They also learn from a BBC radio broadcast that more than 20,000 people have been killed in Britain by the Nazi bombings. This reality sparks even stronger debate about the existence of God. Would a true God allow such mindless slaughter? It is men who deny God who commit such atrocities. Is this a true conflict? And what of life after death? Well this amazing play also addresses that in a very dramatic way for it all takes place on September 23rd 1939.

The only thing I found a little bit off is that I saw no actual resolution of anything. Typically, a story presents a problem or two and then shows the path to an obvious resolution. This story is all about the many questions with no real ultimate solution. But then again that can sometimes be exactly what is intended.

Regardless Freud’s Last Session is a truly captivating theatrical presentation. It does provoke and thus does require some deep thought but it is an exercise very much worth doing. It is playing now through March 4th at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90025. The show runs Wednesdays through Sundays.  Details including ticketing and reservations are available online HERE or by calling 310-477-2055 Ext. 2. I would recommend mature teens and adults only simply because of the intense intellectual content.

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