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'Freud's Last Session' (review): Get Your Time on the Couch

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The Alley Theatre had quite an exciting week. The announcement made on Wednesday, January 29, that on July 15, 2014, the theater will move its 2014-2015 season to the University of Houston Wortham Theatre. They will be moving their season in order to make renovations to their current location. In a press release put out this week by the theatre and announced to us before the performance began, we were informed of the $46.5 million renovation, which “will include fully modernizing the existing building, the cleaning of the concrete building exterior, and improvements in infrastructure that will result in a more energy efficient building.” More about the renovations can be found on the UH website or by watching this video on the Alley Theatre site.

Coming back to the current season, this week I had the pleasure of experiencing “Freud’s Last Session”. It opened this past Wednesday, is currently on the Neuhaus Stage and will run through February 23. A humble production with only a two man cast of Sigmund Freud (James Black) and C.S. Lewis (Jay Sullivan) as they engage in a lively debate of wits, morals and religious thinking.

The lights come up on a quiet theater, with the simple setting of Freud’s study. Set on the day London enters World War II, Lewis is invited to a meeting with Freud. During the time of the meeting, Freud was in his early 80s and his school of thought was already well established. On the other hand, Lewis was only in his early 40s and had yet to create many of the most beloved novels and religious works we still treasure and study today such as “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters”.

Over the course of the hour and about twenty minute run time, we hear the debate of these two creative, intelligent and opinionated men. The play touches on almost every personal and emotional topic, as it circles the main source of debate religion. Lewis, a believer, discusses his views and ideals with Freud, who appears to be the constant skeptic. Both skillfully, slide from point to point as the audience follows the almost ping pong ball like discussion between the two.

Both men, Black and Sullivan, deliver powerful and moving performances. Each actor holds their own, portraying the characters that are in a debate of words and beliefs. We see the ideals and reality of each character come alive before us as the play unfolds. We nod in understanding as Lewis expresses his Christian beliefs and values, only to rub our heads as Freud comes back with a counter or opposing viewpoint. The audience is dragged into the debate and might find their own beliefs affirmed or shaken by what the play reveals through these characters.

One of the best acted, scripted, delivered and intelligent plays I have ever had the pleasure of seeing at the theatre. This play asks the audience examine themselves and their beliefs, to discover just why it is that they hold them. This is the kind of play that will create lasting discussions and invoke true, honest debate that is needed for change, which is evident by the way the play opens and closes. Both characters leave changed and as an audience member, you will feel the same.

Don’t miss your chance to see “Freud’s Last Session” before time is up. The show runs from Jan. 29 until Feb. 23. For ticketing information, please call 713.220.5700 or visit http://tickets.alleytheatre.org/.

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