'Freud, Lewis' fascinating as they debate heady issues

Review

'Freud, Lewis' fascinating as they debate heady issues

Dec 21 2010
Hap Erstein | Palm Beach Post

Theater at its most basic is about language and ideas. That is well illustrated by Mark St. Germain's two-character debate play, Freud's Last Session, a fictional meeting of the minds between Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis and a staunch atheist, and C.S. Lewis... ...If any area stage company were to present Freud's Last Session, surely it would be Palm Beach Dramaworks. "Theater to think about," indeed. In fact, the group hosted St. Germain and his play two years ago with a handful of developmental readings as it was inching toward off-Broadway, where a separate production is still running after five months. Artistic director William Hayes is well-suited to helm the play in its Southeastern premiere here, for he knows to focus on the words, while taking care that this matchup does not seem static. That effort is helped considerably by a pair of nimble verbal jousters -- Dennis Creaghan (Freud) and Chris Oden (Lewis). ...Creaghan demonstrates why he is one of South Florida's most versatile performers, disappearing behind Freud's snowy beard and Viennese accent, while offering a compelling portrait of one of the most revolutionary thinkers of the 20th century. Oden, who played Heisenberg in last season's Copenhagen, emphasizes the reverence that Lewis has for Freud, attacking his nihilistic view of the world with respect and a bit of sadness. Together, they are fascinating, parrying and thrusting verbally, picking apart each other's arguments with surgical precision. Michael Amico contributes another visually intriguing, detailed set in which the analyst's couch is a central focus. Adding to the period feel is the formality of the two men's attire by Brian O'Keefe and Matt Corey's soundscape. Freud's Last Session runs only 70 minutes, but each one is densely packed with ideas worth mulling, served up by a pair of actors who make the time spent with these two towering figures seem even shorter. The verdict: (A-) A debate play between Freud and Lewis over the existence of God and the meaning of life, turned into crackling smart theater by actors Creaghan and Oden.