Regional premiere of ‘Freud’s Last Session’ at Lake Dillon Theatre Company
“What if?” asks director Wendy Moore, as she describes the premise of Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s production of “Freud’s Last Session.”
While the upcoming regional premiere explores concepts of war, religion and the role of humor in a chaotic world, at its core, Mark St. Germain’s two-character comedy-drama asks the question, “What if the legendary psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud shared a conversation with Oxford literary historian C. S. Lewis? And what if it happened on the brink of war? And what if it happened just two weeks before Freud’s death?”
Set in September 1939, 83-year-old Dr. Sigmund Freud invites little-known Oxford professor C. S. Lewis to his office. The unlikely pair anxiously await news of Britain entering the World War II, embarking upon an intellectual journey involving love, sex, the existence of God and the meanings of life and death.
“It’s an intellectual and philosophical sparring match between two titans of thought,” said Bob Moore, who returns to the Lake Dillon Theatre as Freud after appearing in last season’s bookend productions of “Grace” and “1940s Radio Hour.”
“It’s a lively, thought-provoking and humorous discourse between two legendary, historical figures. And it’s extremely entertaining live theater.”
Civil Discourse in a Society
“Freud’s Last Session” takes place in Freud’s study in northwest London. Cluttered with statues of ancient gods and goddesses and shelves of books marking humankind’s achievements, Freud’s office serves as the setting for the philosophical exchange of ideas, usually civil, but at times tense.
“In today’s world of polarized ideologies and beliefs, we have lost the ability to discuss differences of opinion without the intervention of anger and hate,” Bob Moore said. “We need to rediscover the art of listening to a point of view which opposes our own and try to understand it even if we don’t agree with it.”
“In (“Freud’s Last Session”), opposing points of view meet, discuss and listen,” Wendy Moore said. “Each reflects to the other the central tenants of his individual philosophies, while allowing the other an opportunity to do the same.”
Civil discourse is at the heart of the discussion, which is fueled by differences in experiences, ideas and age. (In 1939, Freud would have been 83 and Lewis barely 40.) But their differences are bridged by their desire to learn from and understand each another.
“While they don’t agree, Freud and Lewis each discover and grow in a respect for the other, which gives the play its core and its interest,” Wendy Moore said. “Respect is granted.”
The factors in the play, including the war, the characters and the state of the world, are all historical. But the details come from Germain’s imagination.
“The play is set in motion by the historical events involving the Second World War,” said Christopher Alleman, Lake Dillon Theatre’s producing artistic director.
“And the two characters were not only real people, but their ideas and works influenced a century of thought with lasting impacts on philosophy, science and religion. And there is possibly a slight chance they may have actually met.”
In 1939, the rise of Nazism made life for Freud and his family unsafe in their native Austria. After he escaped to England, Freud lived out his final days in London. According to Freud’s writings, during this period of time he was once visited by a much younger Oxford professor, whose identity to the rest of the world remains unknown. “Freud’s Last Session” supposes that the professor who actually visited Freud was Lewis.
The play is the first production of Lake Dillon’s 2015 season, featuring plays and musicals with recognizable characters in new stories and situations.
“‘Freud’s Last Session’ is perfect for our 21st theater season because it celebrates the lives of two historical figures but imagines them in an interesting new light,” Alleman said. “The play is eloquently written, and audiences will connect with the history of it, as well as the imagination behind it.”
“This play is an intriguing moment of history that may or may not have happened,” Bob Moore said. “Audiences can expect to enjoy the production and possibly learn something new.”
“This play reminds us that conversation can lead to understanding and respect,” Wendy Moore said. “It’s an opportunity to watch the respectful interchange of ideas, which you don’t get to do every day.”
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