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Actors’ Summit challenges audience with ‘Freud’s Last Session’

3/7/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Production features ‘excellent’ directing, acting

Brian Zoldessy (Sigmund Freud), at right, and Keith Stevens (C.S. Lewis) star in Actors’ Summit Theater’s production of “Freud’s Last Session.”
Photo courtesy of Actors’ Summit Theater
DOWNTOWN AKRON — If lightning had struck Actors’ Summit in Akron’s Greystone Hall, I would not have been surprised when I saw the production of “Freud’s Last Session” by Mark St. Germain.

The story takes place in the London study of Sigmund Freud (Brian Zoldessy). On the day that Great Britain enters World War II, C.S. Lewis (Keith Stevens), a young Oxford professor, visits at Freud’s invitation. They discuss God, sex, the start of World War II and suicide. On the radio, they listen to reports of Germany invading Poland.

Lewis was raised in a strict religious home and wrote books that deal with religious themes. He is known for “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

The founding father of psychoanalysis, Freud was a self-proclaimed atheist.

The two men are amiable. Each respects the other’s intellect and professional accomplishments. However, soon into the play, Lewis realizes something is wrong. Freud explains he has cancer of the mouth. A doctor has removed his palate and constructed an artificial palate, which doesn’t fit well and causes him to cough and bleed. Twenty days after this meeting of Freud and Lewis, Freud will die.

Freud talks at length about killing himself if the pain becomes too difficult to continue. Lewis insists God gives life and only God can take a life. Freud reminds Lewis he doesn’t believe in a God and, therefore, he can end his life.

Lewis panics when the sirens sound, warning of a bombing. The siren leads Lewis to talk about being a soldier in World War I. 

Lewis has seen death on the battlefield; Freud faces his own death — either by suicide or by his body giving out from the cancer.

I have seen both Zoldessy and Stevens in other plays.  The two men are at the top of their game in this production.

Director Neil Thackaberry did an excellent job with a difficult script and a small cast. He helped his actors make their character’s points, and these points (war, suicide, God and life and death) are not easy topics to bring to the stage.

MaryJo Alexander (costumes and props) did a wonderful job dressing the set, which was designed by Rory Wohl. The latter created Freud’s office on a stage, raked to about 38 degrees. Of course, a feature of the set was the daybed, where Freud’s patients would lie for psychoanalysis. Alexander dressed the set with appropriate antiques, African masks and other items Freud would have collected in his life.

“Freud’s Last Session” surfaces significant problems in the world and, fortunately, doesn’t attempt to solve all of them. Certainly, when people leave Greystone Hall, they have more to talk about than where they parked the car.

The play runs about 90 minutes without an intermission. “Freud’s Last Session” will be on the stage through March 17. For tickets, call 330-374-7568.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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