Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:21 pm (PDT)
I saw Freud's Last Session a couple weeks ago. I also went in unsure of what to expect, but I thought the playwright, director and performers did a good job. The only quibbles I had were that Lewis was addressed in the script (and described in the program) as "Professor," when he didn't have a professorship until fifteen years later, and as Kathleen pointed out, the actor playing Lewis appeared to take one too many tips from the Anthony Hopkins school of playing Lewis and portrayed him, at least earlier in the show, as intimidated by going up against a giant like Freud, kind of like a kid going up in front of the principal with his tail between his legs after the teacher caught him writing a mocking limerick about him that the kid didn't think anyone would see. (Lewis initially thinks Freud wants to chew him out for satirizing his ideas in The Pilgrim's Regress.) I think Lewis actually would have been happy to go blow-for-blow in the combat of intellectual disputation, and wouldn't have been nervous about or backed down from defending in person the arguments he had put forth in print. In this play, however, there were several moments earlier on where Lewis appeared to have to stop and collect himself out of anxiety.
The character found his feet later in the play, though, and we did see Lewis scoring points on Freud. It became a pretty evenly-matched battle, both of them pushing each other's buttons, but always with mutual respect, as I think would have actually happened if they had met. The playwright and actors succeeded in getting you to care about both men deeply. And even though I disagreed with the actor's choice on how to play Lewis, I thought both he and the actor playing Freud did an excellent job. And one thing I was not expecting - it was FUNNY. The audience was roaring quite regularly.
So while there are some things I would change if I produced it (which I'm considering doing), I recommend it whole-heartedly.
I just saw Freud's Last Session off_Broadway about 10 days ago.
I was very trepidatious going in, as I feared they would not do justice
to our man, but I can recommend the play whole-heartedly. My only
caveat was that the actor who played Lewis sometimes ducked his head
diffidently, as if Fred had scored a point in their discussion.
So far as I know, Lewis was never diffident, even at 41 as he would have been on the date the play takes place, Sept. 3, 1939.
I felt the presentation of both viewpoints was fair and balanced. There
was humor, pathos, and excellent give-and-take. I have been reading
Lewis for 40 years and did not find any error in the script. I know
very little about Freud, so I cannot speak for his lines, but my
daughter, with whom I attended, is very famillar with him. In her
opinion, his portrayal was also very accurate.
I came away with great respect for the playwright. It cannot have been
easy to create a realistic and interesting play from the vast amounts
of writing these two produced. I give it two hearty thumbs up.
I would very much enjoy hearing from anyone else who has seen this.