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‘Freud’s Last Session’ talks of God

Freud072310_optA brief encounter with Freud and C.S. Lewis offers some lively debate

BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW

A lively visit with two deep thinkers, "Freud's Last Session" is Mark St. Germain's new drama about the time Sigmund Freud had a little chat with C.S. Lewis about the existence of God.

It's not known whether the great psychiatrist actually met the Oxford don notable for "The Chronicles of Narnia" and other works with Christian themes. Fleeing Nazi persecution in Vienna, the elderly, dying Freud settled in London in the late 1930s, and according to Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. in his book "The Question of God," such an encounter might well have happened.

In any event, the playwright uses Nicholi's "what-if" supposition to craft the neat two-hander that opened Thursday at the Marjorie S. Dean Little Theater. Situated only a block away from Lincoln Center in the West Side Y, the theater offers a very comfortable 150-seat auditorium where one can sit back and listen up to the play's ensuing debates.

Designer Brian Prather furnishes a handsomely detailed setting for Freud's study, complete with a couch. For all of the peacefulness of this book-lined abode, danger hovers in the air because St. Germain slates his session for Freud and Lewis on the September day that World War II breaks out.

Grave news comes over the radio while air raid sirens and the ominous roar of planes intermittently punctuates the characters' exchanges regarding life, death, God, religion and related topics — including sex, of course.

The playwright ably and sufficiently provides interesting biographical detail on the men so that viewers can appreciate their perspectives. The arguments that ensue are crisply rendered in this 80-minute conversation piece enlivened by strong performances.

Martin Rayner depicts a gravely ailing yet feisty Freud with guttural accents and a grim sense of humor. Looking spruce in his sharp flannels, Mark H. Dold gives his middle-aged Lewis a fine sense of urgency. Director Tyler Marchant wisely keeps his actors in motion to counter the play's relatively static nature.

"Freud's Last Session" continues through Nov. 28 at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater, 10 W. 64th St., New York. Call (212) 352-3101 or visit www.freudslastsession.com.

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