Chicago Theatre Review
The Dr. Will See You Now, With Stellar Results.
By Lazlo Collins
The loveliness of “Freud’s Last Session”, now playing at the Mercury Theater, is not only revealed through the splendid writing, but also with the amazing performances of the two fine actors in its grasp. In this new launch with Mike Nussbaum as Sigmund Freud and Coburn Goss as C. S. Lewis, these are performances of the highest caliber.
It is the very day that Britain will enter the war on 3 Sept. 1939 and Dr. Freud has agreed to entertain one C. S. Lewis. At this juncture, Freud is ending a brilliant career, while Mr. Lewis is just coming up on his own notoriety.
C. S. Lewis made the conversion to theism and, of course, Dr. Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis, who gave little credence to religion. With their views securely intact, with their ages in opposition too; the gentlemen talk, spar, and search to find meaning in each other’s opinions and theories.
This 90 minute conversation reveals the lives of these two men through a script that is both heavily informational and lightly playful. Their careful interactions and choices for words, finds these two literary powerhouses challenging themselves, as well as each other with their own beliefs and philosophies.
Mr. Nussbaum’s portrayal of Dr. Freud is amazing. He commands the stage with his presence and demeanor. His mannerisms and timing were impeccable. I felt his pain and his force when challenged with his beliefs and illness. (Dr. Freud suffered from an oral cancer ultimately taking his own life on 23 Sept. 1939) With his passion for his beliefs and softer side revealed during this lovely London meeting, Mr. Nussbaum brings Freud to life for theater goers to saver. I did not want this show to end.
Mr. Goss’s performance was no less stellar than that of his on stage partner. His polite, yet probing, meeting was perfect. His performance was understated and charming. A less capable actor would have reduced this role to a secondary one, but Mr. Goss matched the energy and nuance his role deserved. His insistence with Dr. Freud about his conversion was a tender and respectful; his compassion for a man dying was touching among uncertainty the war itself.
The speculation of whether these to literary persons ever met sparked the very writing of the play.
After seeing “Freud’s Last Session” it did not matter if they met or not, it was thrilling to see these two men deliberate about the core beliefs that guided them every day. The debate of whether God exists or not, will continue long past the closing of this short, satisfying theatrical conversation; but it will be the audiences pleasure to experience these debates through the minds of these real life characters.
I hope that among the spot on, comforting set of this show lays a copy of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Ego and Id”. It would be a fitting tribute, but yet again, the writer (Mark St. Germain), Mr. Nussbaum and Mr. Goss have already done that.
Get off the couch and go see this theatrical jewel.
“Freud’s Last Session” runs through 15 July 2012 at the Mercury Theater. Call 773-325-1700 or go to www.mercurytheaterchicago.com