This afternoon, I went to the Ensemble Theatre in Cincinnati to see a matinee presentation of “Freud’s Last Session” which depicted a fictitious visit from C.S. Lewis just weeks before Freud’s death.
I didn’t know what to expect from the play. I was hoping it would be intellectually engaging and reasonably balanced (though I suspected a modern theatrical production would show Freud in a better light than Lewis).
I wasn’t expecting a lot of action. It would be hard to convincingly portray a meeting between the 83-year-old dying psychoanalyst and the young Oxford don and not focus almost exclusively on the dialogue. (Though a mud-wrestling contest might have made for an interesting Python-esque twist).
The best assessment I can make of the play is that I was entertained about as much as when I listen to pop music from my high school days (early 1980s). It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. But it’s redundant. And not very deep.
The playbill said the story was “suggested by the book The Question of God“. I think the script could have easily been written by looking up Freud and Lewis quotes on-line and just cutting and pasting them one right after the other.
Still, for a play where the most gripping action was an old man taking his dentures out, there were some good moments. Such as,
– When Freud backed Lewis into a corner over his strange relationship with “Mrs. Moore”, his war buddy’s mother.
– When Lewis defused Freud’s attack by asking him about his even more bizarre relationship with his daughter Anna.
– When Freud told a story of a hydrocephalic midget who comforted him in a hospital and Freud (almost) conceded to Lewis’ inference that it revealed God’s humor.
– When Freud told a funny joke about an dying atheist calling for the village priest.
I will also say that I was pleased that while we were basically presented with theology lite and pop psychology, it was at least a draw. Neither Freud nor Lewis had the upper hand. If anything, there was a “redemptive moment” for Freud in the end. He doesn’t exactly fall to his knees and say the “Sinner’s Prayer”, but he does find comfort in something beyond himself.
I’m glad I went to the play. But I’m more glad to be home, where I can sit down with the collection of writings of Freud and Lewis and dig a little deeper.