by Lynn on May 2, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r Layne Coleman, Brendan Murray
Photo: Joanna Akyol

At the Greenwin Theatre, Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Mark St. Germain
Directed by David Ferry
Set and Costumes by Sean Mulcahy
Lighting by Glenn Davidson
Sound by Lyon Smith
Cast: Layne Coleman
Brendan Murray

A provocative play about Sigmund Freud and an afternoon spent with CS Lewis discussing, God, faith, religion, science, sex, love and death among others. The production is smart, beautifully directed and of course leaves you with so much to ponder.

The Story. London. It’s September 3, 1939 the day that England will declare war on Germany. Noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud waits for young Oxford Don, C.S. Lewis, noted philosopher and creator of the Narnia books among others. Freud is in terrible pain. He has cancer of the mouth and wears an ill-fitting and painful upper plate.

When Lewis arrives he is as chipper and buoyant as Freud is as brooding and critical. Freud has invited Lewis to his home to find out why Lewis went from being an atheist to converting to Catholicism and embracing God. Freud is a staunch atheist and is ready to debate Lewis’ beliefs but also to listen and ponder what he has to say. I can consider that because Freud is in so much pain from the cancer and is planning to take his own life a short while after this time, then perhaps Freud is looking for some kind of solace in what he might learn from Lewis. Just a thought.

The Production. Sean Mulcahy has designed a set of Freud’s study complete with many collectables, busts of famous people, skulls, book, three lamps, an ornate desk, rugs on the floor, a chaise for patients stage left and heavy drapes that cover two windows that look out into the garden. The study is well used and worn. It does have its own order.

Both Freud and Lewis are gracious and respectful of each other. Sean Mulcahy has designed a brown three piece suit for Freud. Layne Coleman as Freud is a bit stooped, and has the walk of an old man—Freud is 83. Coleman plays Freud as a bit irascible and a touch irritated because Lewis is late. The schedules of trains is terrible what with the air raids etc. Or it could be misplaced anger because Freud is in such terrible pain.

On the other hand, Lewis as played by Brendan Murray is dapper in cream coloured pants a shirt, tie and light tanned vest. Lewis is one sharp dresser. There is a fastidiousness of politeness between the two, with Freud being the more challenging intellectually. Murray is compassionate and concerted by Freud’s situation and aghast that he even considers suicide.

There are questions of the existence of God; if so how can God justify the death of children? There is the question of free will with regards to mankind and how people do bad things and that it might not be a spiteful God who allows it.

Director David Ferry keeps the arguments between the men bouncing evenly, naturally and without burden. In its way the audience is ‘asked’, ‘expected’ to keep up. Because writer Mark St. Germain has written such a bracing play about belief, faith, and questions it’s easy to consider each question and ones belief personally.

In the play Freud listens to the radio only to hear the news of the impending war. He turns it off when the music comes on because he just could not fathom its mysteries. In the play, the final scene Freud keeps the radio on after a newscast and he listens to the music but is still mystified at it. He does not engage with it emotionally.

David Ferry put his own twist on it. Freud stands when the music comes on. It’s the glorious hymn “Jerusalem.” The floor of the set separates and Freud is isolated on a square of the set. The music swells and Freud is overcome with the emotion of the music. He raises his arm and looks upward to heaven, perhaps to accept a higher spirit he had until then renounced. It’s a wonderful, emotional moment in a terrific production.

Comment. There is plenty to ponder in Mark St. Germain’s play between two of the greatest minds in the twentieth century and it’s beautifully produced. Well worth a trip to the Greenwin Theatre.

Produced by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company.

Began: April 22, 2017.
Saw it: April 30, 2017.
Closes: May 14, 2017.
Cast: 2 men
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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