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San Jose Rep presents….
FREUD’S LAST SESSION
By Mark St. Germain
Directed by Stephen Wrentmore
Starring Ben Evett & J. Michael Flynn
To be an atheist requires an indefinitely greater measure of faith
Than to receive all the great truths which atheism would deny.
This play is an imaginary glimpse into the minds of two great thinkers, C. S. Lewis and Dr. Sigmund Freud in a conversation the day before England enters World War II and two weeks before Freud, dying of oral cancer ends his own life. The two men discuss love, sex and the existence of God and debate the value and impact of all three on the human condition.
Kent Dorsey’s magnificent set recreates Freud’s study and sets the mood for the 90 minute discussion between the two men. Director Stephen Wrentmore manages to keep the play moving by making use of the entire stage. The characters move from the tea table, to the couch to the radio to listen to the news proclaiming the imminence of war. Somehow, the combination of excellent direction and superb acting keeps the dialogue from descending into a tiresome recitation of two men’s conflicting philosophies.
C. S. Lewis ((Ben Evett) has recently embraced religion and Freud (J. Michael Flynn) says, “I want to learn why a man of your intellect would abandon truth and embrace a lie.” The remaining 90 minutes is spent hearing the reason Lewis knows that God exists and Freud is equally sure religion is a myth.
Freud points out that the very existence of Hitler proves that there is no supreme being watching over us and Lewis disagrees. “Hitler’s actions reinforce the opposite,” he says. “We have to accept that there is a moral law.” And he goes on to say, “The wish that God doesn’t exist can be stronger than the wish that God does.
Freud counters with “Theologians hide behind their ignorance;” and as the discussion continues he says, “I always find what people don’t tell me is less important than what they do.” Lewis sees that Freud is dying and he says, “How can a man of your intelligence think the end is the end? When you are faced with death, then what?”
Indeed, through the endless back and forth discussion whether God exists or if He is a product of our imagination, the arguments presented were the same l ones religious leaders and atheist have been tossing back and forth every since religion began. It was Michael Bakunin who said, “All religions, with their gods, their demi-gods, and their prophets, their messiahs and their saints, were created by the prejudiced fancy of men who had not attained the full development and full possession of their faculties.”
In contrast Calvin Coolidge said, “It is hard to see how a great man can be an atheist. Without the sustaining influence of faith in a divine power we could have little faith in ourselves. We need to feel that behind us is intelligence and love.”
The debate we heard on the San José Repertory’s stage was the one that has been going on for centuries. There were no shocking revelations, no new lights cast on the eternal conflict between religion and its opponents. The play is saved by the virtuosity of the actors moving across an amazing set that recreates the time the play is taking place and the pace of the production. You won’t hear anything new in this play, nor will the ideas presented convince you that your own belief is invalid. I doubt that either argument presented in the script will be innovative or strong enough to convert a believer and convince one who does not. The virtue of this production is in the acting and direction and for that alone it is well worth the price of admission.
FREUD’S LAST SESSION continues through November 4, 2012
San Jose Repertory theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio
Tickets $29-$74 408 367 7255 or www. Sjrep.com
About Lynn Ruth
Causes Lynn Ruth Miller Supports
Habitat for Humanity