Robert Dorfman and Peter Christian Hansen.
Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. A psychiatrist and a writer walk into an office and talk for about 70 minutes... without managing to say anything along the way.
The Guthrie's production of Freud's Last Session features an intense confluence of a bad script, bad directing, and bad acting for a show that seems to stretch much longer than its one-act running time.
Let's take the problems in order.
Mark St. Germain's script imagines a meeting between Sigmund Freud and English author C.S. Lewis. It's technically possible -- Freud spent his last days living in England -- but the script doesn't build a particularly convincing setting for them to meet. Instead, they gather in Freud's study under some pretense. Once together, they proceed to discuss the world, psychology, and religion.
The last should be the drawing point here. Freud was a staunch atheist. Lewis had undergone a conversion to a strong Christian worldview. This could make for a good debate between the two, but St. Germain's script is nowhere near as bright as the two minds he portrays. It feels like he read a couple of surveys of their respective works without really digging into the nitty gritty here.
That means the arguments for and against a divine creator just circle around and around without getting anywhere. The fun of debate isn't winning (well, it's not the only thing), it's the chance to test your beliefs and thoughts against a tough counter argument. Nothing here gets to that point.
It doesn't help that the actors aren't at their best. Both Robert Dorfman (Freud) and Peter Christian Hansen (Lewis) are talented performers who feel absolutely at sea here. Dorfman seems to be playing a caricature of the psychiatrist instead of a full, breathing person. Hansen doesn't seem to have a handle on Lewis at all, giving us someone completely unlikeable.
Director Rob Melrose doesn't make much of the weak material, and the whole experience feels more like a slog than an exciting intellectual exercise. There is a sense of self importance that hangs over this show (check out the all-black set from Michael Locher) that isn't at all matched by what's here. In the end, I don't even want to run and check out the writings of these writers, but leave them alone for a time until the memory of this show fades.
IF YOU GO:
Freud's Last Session
Through March 16
The Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online.