Freud’s Last Session, now playing at Chicago’s historic Mercury Theatre, is a dialectical and quite poignant discussion between the late great intellects/philosophers Sigmund Freud (Mike Nussbaum) and C.S. Lewis ( Coburn Goss). Following a most successful run off Broadway, the show is based on the book, The Question of God, by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, and explores the tantalizing question of whether C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud ever really met; and even deeper, the existence of God. Playwright Mark St. Germain brings to life onstage the story of these two men, and their many insights on values, religion, myths, perceptions, and above all, the meaning of life, just weeks before Freud takes his own.
The two power players onstage are Dr. Sigmund Freud played by Mike Nussbaum, who bears an uncanny likeness to this historic figure. Little known facts, trivia, and the rich personal and professional life of this remarkable figure in history is uncovered throughout the performance. He is portrayed as the ultimate atheist, in a ‘meeting of the minds’ with the prominent, brilliant English writer C.S. Lewis, a true proponent of religion, God, and faith. With other shows on the theme of religion, making their revivals in Chicago, such as Doubt, and Agnes of God, this show contains an undeniably intriguing hook – the imagined meeting between the two. Set in 1939, on the morning of Britain’s anticipation of Chamberlain’s speech, the play takes place in Freud’s study- worldly, ornate, scholarly,and quite reflective of the time period. The set is extremely evocative of Freud’s lifestyle. His Tennessee Williams’ style collection of god-like objects and mummified statuettes reflect his view that “objects are safer than people.” There are many poetic gems of dialogue and endless brilliant diatribes tossed about by the two men, who constantly clash with their different set of values and belief systems. One such pithy quote: ” A world without freedom of choice is a world void of God…”
The play, though dealing with matters of true depth and gravity, still contains levity throughout, to balance the dramatic tension onstage. At one point, despite Freud’s late stage jaw cancer and near suicidal pain, he pulls out his infamous cigar, as an alleviant, and states his need for instant gratification. This subliminal humor and sexual innuendo of the phallic cigar adds levity and a needed break from the intense debate preceding this scene. Throughout the discourse, Nussbaum exquisitely portrays how Freud’s job was to find out one’s deep seated feelings, going on underneath one’s psyche. He challenges Lewis, with the profound line, “I always consider what people tell me to be less important than what they cannot.” The two brilliant actors carry the show, and prove the fact that there are only so many media in which reinvention is possible… and theatre is one of them.
Through Nov. 11th
Mercury Theatre 3745 N Southport Ave,
Wed. 2pm, 7:30 ; Th. 7:30; Fri. 8PM; Sat 2, 8 pm; Sun. 1pm