[caption id="attachment_1171" align="alignnone" width="488"] George Tynan Crowley and Jeffrey Plunkett in FST's Freud's Last Session. Photo by Brian Braun[/caption]
By Kay Kipling
Playwright Mark St. German has made something of a specialty in presenting works for the stage featuring as the subjects real people—Camping with Henry and Tom brought us Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Warren G. Harding; Becoming Dr. Ruth, recent Sarasota visitor Dr. Ruth Westheimer—and he found two ideal such subjects with writer C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and father of psychotherapy Sigmund Freud in Freud’s Last Session, now onstage at Florida Studio Theatre’s Keating Theatre.
St. Germain’s play was suggested by Harvard professor Dr. Armand M. Nicholi Jr.’s The Question of God, and it follows that such opposites as the man of science Dr. Freud and the Christian believer Lewis would have quite a debate on the existence of God and the afterlife, if they had ever met in person. There’s no evidence to prove that they did, but onstage Lewis pays a visit to Freud in his London study and the conversation naturally revolves around their differences on the matter.
Lewis (Jeffrey Plunkett), a veteran of World War I and at one time a nonbeliever, has come to fervently believe in God and Christ, but he has a hard case when trying to win over Freud (George Tynan Crowley). He’s given perhaps an assist in that this great man of the mind is in his last days, dying of oral cancer, and also stunned by the recent invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany (the play is set in 1939). There’s nothing like the blare of an air raid siren to concentrate the brain on whether or not God is there for you.
It might sound like Freud’s Last Session will be a lot of talk, and in fact it is. There are brief moments when your attention wanders just a bit, but in general the two actors and director Kate Alexander bring life to St. Germain’s often clever dialogue, with the occasional phone call by Freud to his daughter, Anna, or the radio broadcasts updating the latest on the invasion reminding us of the world outside Freud’s study. (That study is, by the way, a fitting representation by scenic designers Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay of a man of learning’s sanctum, but the white tubes curving around behind the walls are merely a confusing distraction.)
Both Plunkett and Crowley, who have appeared often on FST stages before, deliver their lines and their stances with passion and flashes of wit, helping to make this battle of beliefs more convincing. In just 90 minutes (with no intermission), Freud’s Last Session covers a lot of ground, and gives us some welcome insights into the real-life men depicted here.
Freud’s Last Session is scheduled to run only through March 23 at the Keating; for tickets call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.