Last Friday, I had the great privilege of seeing the award-winning play Freud's Last Sessionin New York. The play, by Mark St. Germain, is based on the book The Question of Godby Dr. Armand Nicholi. As the playwright explains in his program notes, Nicholi briefly speculates in the book as to whether Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis ever met, and "his speculation sparked this play."
The play is set during one fateful day -- September 3, 1939 -- when 41-year-old Lewis (Mark H. Dold) travels to meet 83-year-old Freud (Martin Rayner) at the latter's London residence. What ensues is a titanic clash of worldviews, into which many of both men's real words are incorporated. Both are allowed to make strong arguments and score a number of points. When Lewis finally departs, the debate is left unresolved . . . or is it?
In the small theater, it was easy to tell where the skeptics were sitting, judging by where the loudest laughter came from whenever Freud delivered a zinger. And whenever Lewis delivered one . . . well, you could tell where I was sitting. Not that my friend and I were the only Christians in the theater; I was just the most obnoxious vocal. But in this age of ever-increasing closed-mindedness, I think it's wonderful that both factions could come together to watch something like this, and to see what real dialogue between representatives of warring worldviews can look like.
A couple more notes: One of the things I loved most was that the play showed, not just through his words but also through his deeds, how Lewis's faith shaped his character. On two separate occasions -- first a bomb scare, then a medical emergency -- Lewis shows extraordinary courage and selflessness, even risking his own life for this ailing old man whom he's only just met. By all accounts, this is exactly how Lewis was in real life, and though the connection between his faith and his kindness is never explicitly drawn, it's very hard to miss.
Oh, and here's another thing I loved: As the play draws to a close, we hear King George VI delivering a speech on the radio. Yes, that speech. (But it's delivered in a resonant voice with no pauses at all. Had it been known beforehand that a hit film about said speech was in the works, I'll wager they'd have done that a little differently!) At this point in the play, the king's multiple references to God affect both Freud and the audience in ways both humorous and profound.
In short, the play is amazing and you should see it if you have a chance! But if not, you can always read it. I've already ordered my copy. (Shipping costs are a little steep, but still, the total cost is under $15.) You can also get a little taste of the play, and the brilliant performances of both actors, by watching the clip below.
Note: The clip contains some sexual themes. This is Freud-related, after all. Do not miss Dold's face when Rayner mentions the piccolo.