The 5 & Dime Theatre Company presented a two-day run on September 27 – 28, 2013, of Mark St. Germain’s provocative two-hander FREUD’S LAST SESSION. The play had a successful Off-Broadway production that ran for two years and was well received.
Mark St. Germain’s only previous play on the local scene was some years ago back in the 90s at Players by the Sea with “Camping With Henry and Tom.” The Dualcritics had the opportunity this past summer at the Contemporary Theatre Festival in Shepherdstown, WV, to see the world premier of his latest work, “Scott & Hem in the Garden of Allah,” about a fictitious meeting in 1937 between Ernest Hemingway, whose career was on the way up and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose talent and fame were spiraling down.
Freud’s Last Session is set in London, in the physician’s study at the beginning of World War II. The date is September 3, 1939, the day that both Britain and France declared war against Germany after the invasion of Poland two days earlier. Freud, who had fled Austria in 1938 to escape the Nazis, has cancer of the throat, which is inoperable and is causing progressively more severe pain; he will be dead by the end of the month.
Freud has invited Oxford professor and literary critic C. S. Lewis to his home, to discuss Lewis’s recent conversion from atheism to Christianity. Freud, a life-long atheist, bickers and disagrees about various points during their encounter of over an hour, but the men show empathy toward each other as they challenge and exchange ideas. The two discuss their own attitudes toward life and experiences with absolutely enthralling candor.
A play with just two persons talking can become very static, but Director KELBY SIDDONS keeps things moving in an interesting manner, with Freud answering the phone several times. He also turns on the radio to listen to broadcasts about the impending war; JOSH WALLER did the BBC Radio voiceovers. Midway in the play an air raid warning sounds and the two men madly dash about to find their gas masks.
It is a rare sensation to attend a play and emerge with the impression of having met two talkative intelligent men with something thought-provoking to say. We found “Freud’s Last Session” at times funny, quirky, and deeply articulate, with a dialogue which destines the audience to take sides.
SETH LANGNER created an engaging portrayal of the brilliant professor, C.S. Lewis. At this point in his life, he had not reached his fame as the author of such books as “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Screwtape Letters”. Readers may recall the 1993 movie “Shadowlands” with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, which covered his friendship with and eventual marriage to an American woman.
ROBERT ARLEIGH WHITE as Freud marks his return to the stage as a performer after a number of years as Executive Director for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, and previously, Artistic and Executive Director of Theatre Jacksonville. This is a tour de force performance for White, who is so convincing with his Austrian accent and demeanor we felt we were in the actual presence of the legendary Dr. Freud. Also convincing was his depiction of Freud’s illness, which seemed so real we wanted to reach out and help somehow.
The play was held in an expansive room with brick walls and paneling at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Riverside. All the seating was on ground level with the stage set, so audience members felt as though they were spectators in the office of the famous doctor. The set design by Director Siddons used furnishings and properties from outside sources to re-create Freud’s famous study, complete with oriental rugs, a large desk, a vintage radio, many bookcases, and many figurines. LEE HAMBY designed the costumes which had the men dressed reflecting 1939 London attire. The Production/Stage Manger was ABIGAIL SAENZ, ably assisted by PATRICIA GORMAN, MAGGIE O’CONNOR, and CARYL BETTERLEY.
The two performances of this significant play by the 5 & Dime Company were a fund-raiser for future productions during the 2013 – 14 season.
Next up for the 5 & Dime on October 17, 18, 19, is ELEGIES FOR ANGELS, PUNKS AND RAGING QUEENS which will be performed at Pangea Live, 956 North Liberty Street, in Jacksonville, Florida.