Freud’s Last Session

off Broadway at New World Stages;  December 3, 2011

At the base of this off- Broadway play is the oldest debate known to man.  Religion vs. atheism.  Why playwright Mark St. Germain felt compelled to revisit it speaks more, apparently, to his attachment to the debate rather than knowledge of the characters. 

To take such a noted public figure whose life and work so profoundly affected mankind and focus on one aspect of his belief system which had no bearing on his work, seems to trivialize that work.  One can always juxtapose an atheist with a person of faith and dialogue one’s beliefs through characters.  How does that serve to know those men and women?

The dialogue, as always, is: I am right, no you are wrong;  There is no proof, ah, but there is faith.  After undergrad school there are more important things to discuss. Whether you believe or not means nothing to anyone but yourself.

Actors Martin Rayner and Mark H. Dold as are up to the task, more so Mr. Rayner as Freud who brings a curmudgeonly edge to the part. 

A couple of lines rang true. Lewis refuses to speak about something and Freud remarks that it is more important what people are unwilling to talk about than what they will talk about.  This is from the master’s work.  He once allowed a patient to avoid talking about one area of his life.  Freud quickly regretted that, writing that if the church was off limits for the police, or some such metaphor, then that would be exactly where the criminal would hide.

When Lewis chides Freud that everything to him is about sex, Freud clarifies, as he did in his writings;  that his use of the word sex – more accurately libido – was much broader in scope and included a child sitting on her father’s knee or a baby suckling at his mother’s breast.  Libido is the motivating force, often emerging in what we call sex, but often, too, emerging in activities and obsessions which are not commonly thought of in those terms.

Finally, Lewis deigns to prove the existence of god by saying that the search for his presence requires one to get awake and stay awake.  An important thought, to be sure, but meditation provides that same path with no deity attached.  You are here and it is now.