Why do we think the way we think, act the way we act?
While many have pondered these questions, few have explored them as deeply as Sigmund Freud.
“Freud’s Last Session” takes place in the psychologist’s study in England during World War II — when wailing raid sirens and bombers flying overhead were daily occurrences.
Michael Hayes as Freud and Brian DeVries as author C.S. Lewis make a convincing mismatched pair. Freud is 83 years old, ailing from mouth cancer and planning his suicide. He is confronted by the much younger Lewis, a writer and essayist on Christian thinking.
Ostensibly, Lewis is there to offer an apology of sorts for having humorously characterized Freud in one of his writings.
What follows, however, is a spirited and argumentative 80-minute dialogue about the existence of God and a thorough thrashing of the differences between the philosophy of a man of faith and a man of reason.
Freud is seemingly no less passionate during his decline. He is an angry soul determined to end his days on his own terms. With no hesitancy, he attacks what he sees as Lewis’ irrational notions about faith.
Hayes is breathtakingly brilliant in this role. He shuffles back and forth across the stage, with body aches and pains apparent, but none the less sharp and biting in his passion for reason. At one point, he engages Lewis in a classic therapy session — all empathy and ensued with delicate and effective confrontation.
Lewis’ contributions to the conversation are measured and calm. DeVries’ Lewis holds his own and stands tall as the representative of faith, even as Freud’s ideas come across with accompanying spittle.
There is a moment where both are reduced to abject fear of an unseemly death by the sound of the bombers overhead — a grudging acknowledgment that neither blind faith nor intellectual reasoning can fully address the moment.
Director Rob Roznowski of MSU keeps the dialogue moving and the intensity rising throughout the show. Josiah Masvero is listed as production designer, assembling a set of furniture and props that make the black box setting entirely believable.