On the Couch with Sigmund Freud – “Freud’s Last Session” at the Odyssey Theatre, Los Angeles

Odyssey Theatre in Los Angles opens the 2018 season with a thought provoking theatre play. “Freud’s Last Session” takes on the ever-present question of God’s existence.

We all have heard of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. While Freud is world known as the father of psychoanalysis and his book Interpretations of Dreams, everyone is familiar with C.S.Lewis’ series of fantasy novels The Chronicles of Narnia.

But who is the real human being behind each one of the two acclaimed personalities? Do we know Freud or Lewis, even if we claim to understand their philosophical teachings and theories as well as their academic and personal convictions?

In “Freud’s Last Session”, Author Mark St. Germain is trying to give us a glimpse into the human side of these two brilliant minds. He effectively ‘spices up’ their academic debate with each one’s very own personal biases and hang-ups.

Be prepared for an intense battle of opinions and convincing words as you witness a verbal power fight between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis that is spiked with humor and wit.

The play imagines a meeting between these two influential minds on Sept. 3, 1939, the day when England entered WW II and just two weeks before Freud took his own life. Their conversation about the greatest question of all time is going beyond Freud’s psychoanalytical and atheist theories and Lewis’ Christian beliefs.

We learn that Lewis just recently converted back to the Christian faith after having been an atheist for much of his life. Freud, for whom “the concept of God is ludicrous”, can’t fathom how a man of Lewis’ intellect would have ever abandoned ‘the truth’ [atheism] only to become a devout Christian. He is mocking Lewis for his St. Paul-like conversion.

Freud, who had to witness one of his daughters and a grandchild die, who was forced to leave his home after Hitler occupied Austria, and who is suffering through the advanced stages of oral cancer, questions the existence of a God, seeing only a world full of pain and a dictator, like Hitler, trying to destroy humanity. Lewis tries to make sense of it all by mentioning that “history is filled with monsters” and that evil is necessary to bring out the good and to help restore balance.

During the play each of the two debaters finds himself sitting on Freud’s couch as both try to psychoanalyze each other. They find out that they share a deep disdain for their father. Freud hereafter insists that Lewis’ converting back to Christianity can be blamed solely on the blatant search for the ideal father figure. But Lewis cleverly counterattacks stating that Freud seems to detest God as he detests his father.

Throughout the play, death is a persistent constant making the question of God’s existence ever more relevant. While Freud struggles visibly with the actual signs of death by suffering through the last stages of cancer, Lewis is reminded of its presence by the immediacy of England entering WW II. A fact that revives memories of terror in him of the time when he served as a soldier in WW I, in which he was wounded and lost his best friend.

Freud and Lewis bid each other goodbye at last with Lewis saying, “My idea of God. It constantly changes. …Still, I feel the world is crowded with Him.”  Freud sends Lewis on his way stating that if Lewis was right [with his Christian faith], “We will see each other again” but if he [Freud] was right, they would never find out!

“Freud’s Last Session” is a play that is carried solely by the conversations of two characters. It lives of the words and interpretations of only two actors. Not an easy thing to do.

Both, Martin Rayner as Sigmund Freud and Martyn Stanbridge as C.S. Lewis do an excellent job bringing the characters to life. Particularly Rayner as Freud vividly displays what Freud must have gone through in his last days of life. One is simply united in pain with him when Freud (Rayner) suffers through his agonizing coughing attacks.

“Freud’s Last Session” is another excellent production by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble that encourages its audience to continue the conversation beyond the theater’s walls.

We surely left the play with a mind busy with self-reflection and making sense of our own existence. …A good exercise to start out the new year!

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“Freud’s Last Session” written by Mark St, Germain, directed by Emmy Award-winner Robert Mandel plays at the Odyssey Theatre from January 13th – March 4th, 2018.

Performances take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 24; Thursday, Feb. 8; Wednesday, Feb. 21; and Thursday, March 1, all at 8 p.m.

  • Tickets: $30 to $35;
  • Tix for $10” performances are on Wednesday, Jan. 24; Friday, Feb. 2; and Thursday, March 1.
  • Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Friday, Jan. 19 and Wednesday, Jan. 24.
  • Wine night at the Odyssey: Enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show on the third Friday of every month.

The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.

Images depicting Martin Rayner and Martyn Stanbridge
Photos by Enci Box,  ©Odyssey Theatre

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