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Theatre Review: Freud's Last Session

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 9, 2011

This two-character drama unfolds in a single scene as war was breaking out in 1939. It's an imagined meeting between two towering intellects who have very little in common.

First, we meet the 83-year-old Freud - a determined skeptic and atheist. He has fled the Nazis and sought refuge in London, and he is dying from cancer, the result of a longstanding indulgence of cigars.

Then the 40-ish Lewis arrives - he's an energetic optimist and devout Christian. His faith informs his writing, including the popular series of children's books, "The Chronicles of Narnia."

The conversation commences in Freud's study, and soon soars into an expansive universe of ideas.

Lewis: "We must accept that there is a moral law at work."

Freud: "No, I don't accept that there's a moral law. There are only feeble attempts to control chaos."

Lewis: "Moral codes have existed throughout time . . . Mankind has never rewarded selfishness."

Freud: "Selfishness rewards itself."

Lewis: "Oh, so the Nazis are right in their actions."

Freud: "Of course not!"

Lewis: "Well, then there is a morality you are comparing them with. A man can't call a line crooked unless he knows what a straight line is."

Freud: "Ah… geometric morality!"


But just when you think this is a "battle of the brains," the shadow of war darkens everything, and the two men break out gas masks.

(Sirens, shouting).

This cleverly constructed 80-minute show uses quick bursts of zesty humor and sudden scary interruptions to counterbalance the blazing exchange between two intellectuals. Yet the actual events on stage - pacing the floor, listening to the Prime Minister on the radio - all unfold within the cozy confines of one well-appointed room.

Veteran actors David Silberman and Jason Kuykendall  inhabit their roles convincingly, and work off each other's performances with skill. It's not a grand play about a moment when the course of history was changed - it's more of a theatrical daydream involving two important writers, as events swirled around them.

But small can be beautiful, and in the case of this show, there are some intriguing surprises wrapped inside this pleasant little package.

 "Freud's Last Session" continues at Sacramento's B Street Theatre through October 1st.

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