Freud's Last Session couched in big questions

Michael Peng as C. S. Lewis, left, and Randy Ritz as Sigmund Freud in Freud’s Last Session, by Mark St. Germain. - submitted
Michael Peng as C. S. Lewis, left, and Randy Ritz as Sigmund Freud in Freud’s Last Session, by Mark St. Germain.
— image credit: submitted

Freud’s Last Session, Chemainus Theatre’s new play starting today, could put viewers on their own analytical couches through probing, witty dialogue.

But not just any chatter.

This insightful Session hears Sigmund Freud — a father of psychoanalysis — match minds with noted novelist C.S. Lewis in Mark St. Germain’s acclaimed 75-minute drama.

Topics may get heavy.

“Lewis (Michael Peng) makes an eloquent case for the existence of God and Christ as God’s expression as a person on Earth — which Freud (Randy Fritz) argues strongly against,” said director and set designer Daniel vanHeyst.

His Session is the first Chemainus Theatre play in its new 65-seat space at its production facility beside the Best Western Chemainus Festival Inn.

VanHeyst was hepped about mounting the existential work that won accolades at the Edmonton Fringe.

“The moral is that we must all examine our beliefs and invite interrogation of them,” he told the News Leader Pictorial.

“There’s a mystery in the universe that science cannot know, but its is nevertheless real.”

Clues to life’s mystery are sifted when Lewis (The Tales of Narnia) is invited by Freud to visit him in London — unknowingly on the eve of war.

“Lewis thinks he’s been invited by Freud for a dressing down for a character, based on Freud, in one of Lewis’ books.”

Despite the plausible plot, “there’s no evidence these men ever met, but we do know they read some of each other’s work,” noted vanHeyst.

“The premise is it’s the day in September 1939 when Britain declared war on Germany because Hitler refused to back down on his invasion of Poland.

“Freud (a Jew) had been living in London for about 1½ years to escape the Nazis, who’d been burning his books, and they arrested his daughter (Anna) and took her in for questioning,” vanHeyst said of Freud, who suffered with oral cancer.

Lewis, a Christian — whose work was just finding prominence — was wounded while fighting in the First World War. Freud “lived through World War One in Austria, and saw patients and colleagues affected.”

With war horrors in common, the two big thinkers tune in to the radio and hear global politics unravel — amped by their conversation, explained vanHeyst.

“We learn a lot about the personal lives of both men.

“They’re very gracious in the face of things, but the play’s quite funny in places too. They argue in witty and sharp conversation.”

VanHeyst found that chat interesting in St. Germain’s script.

VanHeyst, a teacher at Edmonton’s King’s University, read Lewis’ books. He was also interested in psychology, especially as his wife, Rhonda, was a psych nurse, and some of his students study the subject.

In some ways, Session shrinks to “the way our minds work, and why we do what we do.”

Freud and Lewis, he said, would both get a big kick out of the play.

“It’s quite faithful to their lives and the power of their intellect.

“They’d probably argue ‘I’m not really like that.’”

Would Jesus like this drama? “He’d be pleased two smart guys are talking seriously about the big questions in a way Christ invited people he met to discuss the big questions: What is your life for? What does it mean to be a good person? What does it mean to love others?,” guessed vanHeyst, proud of Session’s honesty.

“You really feel like you’re in the room with these two men.”


Your ticket


What: Freud’s Last Session


When: Aug. 20 to 30, times vary


Where: Chemainus Theatre’s Studio Theatre


Tickets: $21. Limited seating. Call 246-9820.

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