Freud’s Last Session imagines a conversation between psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and renowned Christian author C.S. Lewis.
Actor, director and playwright Layne Coleman stars as Freud in the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company’s production of the play, which has been mounted in London and New York.
“It is an interesting play based on an imaginary encounter between two giants in their field that never met,” says Coleman. “It takes place just as the Second World War is breaking out when Hitler invades Poland.”
Coleman explains that Freud bribed his way out of Vienna and the clutches of the Nazis with the help of the Rothschild family and many other people. He moved to a beautiful house in London where he recreated perfectly, his study, his apartment and his studio.
“The fictional part is that he invites C.S. Lewis over to see him and that never happened.”
Coleman says the play is an imagined conversation between the two men; Freud, who rejected the idea of God and “wrote a lot about that, inflaming passions of Catholics, Protestants and those in Judaism, as well,”and Lewis.
Lewis, a preacher’s son who became an atheist in his teens, re-converted to Christianity as an adult. He became famous for writing The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Lewis would frequently follow Churchill on radio broadcasts during the war. “C.S. Lewis would have these Christian fireside chats, where he would advise people spiritually and tell and interrupt stories for them. I’ve heard some of them and they are wonderful. He was a great storyteller and a very imaginative man.
“I would want people to enjoy the incredible sense of humour that both Freud and C.S. Lewis possess,” says Coleman, who believes there are many parallels to the instability in our world today.
He says their criticisms, both public and private of each other, make their encounter wittier than most get-togethers of two people would normally be.
“C.S. Lewis thinks that Freud has an odd sense of humour, that his jokes are strange. Freud’s jokes are classic, rabbinical, borscht-belt humour, and C. S. Lewis’s is British. And in many ways this play is a contrast in humours. Duelling humours.”
Coleman, originally from Saskatchewan but now based in Ontario, says the play is like an intellectual fencing contest, a play of ideas between a believer and a non-believer. The audience will learn a lot about the two men as well as Freud’s daughter Anna.
Coleman was a co-founder of the 25th Street Theatre and was its artistic director from 1980-83, and artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille from 1999 to 2007. He has devoted his theatre career advocating for and advancing new Canadian plays. His daughter, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman is an award-winning playwright, and they have worked together.
His future projects include finishing a film he made called The Shape of Rex, as well as directing a play in Nova Scotia called Lighted Rooms.
The two-man play by Mark St. Germain and directed by David Ferry co-stars Brendan Murray as C.S. Lewis.
Freud’s Last Session runs April 22 to May 14 at the Greenwin Theatre, Toronto Centre for the Arts. For tickets call 1-855-985-2787 or visit www.hgjewishtheatre.com