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Freud’s Last Session off-Broadway

It opened in July of 2010, and word-of-mouth has kept it going for nearly two years. It ran at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre until late 2011, and has since transferred successfully to the cavernous New World Stages. It runs barely 80 minutes, with no intermission, and has a cast of two men on one set. It imagines a meeting(there is the possibility of an actual get-together)between a near-death Sigmund Freud and a 40ish C. S. Lewis on the eve of World War II. These two giants of history mostly sit at a desk and discuss whether or not God exists(Freud-anti, Lewis-pro). It’s a powerhouse little play, and you don’t have much more time to see the original cast. Stars Martin Rayner(Freud)and Mark H. Dold(Lewis)will pack their bags and take it to Chicago come spring. So get to it fast.               You may or may not know that Sigmund Freud suffered from oral cancer in his final years, which would ultimately push him to taking his own life on September 23, 1939(the play is written as having taken place on September 3rd of that year). It is most likely new to you, however, that star Martin Rayner is actually suffering from a form of cancer himself that caused him to collapse on stage in a late 2010 performance of the show(he was back days later). The character of Freud suffers greatly during the play. He gags, spits blood and nearly chokes on an oral prosthesis. It is tastefully presented, but accentuates the fact that the death of the doctor is less than 3 weeks from the date the drama’s conversation occurs. Great energy is expended by Mr. Rayner during these scenes…it is easy to comprehend why someone with an already weakened immune system could pass out. It is a titanic performance, with or without the spectre of actual illness…only more poignant because a similar sickness does, indeed, plague the actor. Mark H. Dold, as the sprightly and respectful C. S. Lewis, is the perfect counterpart to the founder of psychoanalysis. Playing a Lewis on the verge of fame from his own present and future writings, Mr. Dold holds his own against the much more experienced intellect of Freud. One of the biggest laughs of the evening is when atheist Freud says “God bless you” after a sneeze from the Christian C.S.               Playwright Mark St. Germain has created an intellectual piece that contains moments of wry humor as well as stirring drama. The set represents the home office of Dr. Freud as comfortable, lived in, and smelling of pipe smoke. A window behind the desk gives the actors a “view” of the burgeoning war with convincing but non-intrusive lighting and sound effects. This production will continue on in March with a new cast—and bravo to that. But there are plentiful half-price tickets remaining on various websites, to give you a last chance to see the original performers ply their trade. So, see it now. Or see it in the spring. But be certain to schedule a session with Freud.          This show rates a 9.

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