Sunday, January 23, 2011

Palm Beach DramaWorks: Freud's Last Session (4 reviews)

Palm Beach DramaWorks opened their production of Freud's Last Session on December 17, 2010.
On the day England enters World War II, the legendary Dr. Sigmund Freud invites C.S. Lewis to his London home, where they clash on the existence of God, love, sex and the meaning of life.
William Hayes directed a cast that featured Dennis Creaghan and Chris Oden.

Jan Sjostrom finally dragged her butt over the bridge to review for The Palm Beach Daily News:
St. Germain imagines a meeting between the two thinkers during which they debate their conflicting points of view. That could be dry stuff, and the one-act play is chatty. But it’s also entertaining, thanks to a dynamic performance by Dennis Creaghan as Freud and St. Germain’s caustic, witty writing for the character.
Creaghan’s feisty performance as the show’s superstar hitter is balanced by reliable fielding by Christopher Oden as Lewis.
St. Germain intensifies the encounter by setting it in Freud’s study in London — cozily evoked by scenic designer Michael Amico — on the day Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. Air raid sirens and radio coverage interrupt the men’s verbal sparring.
The war threat and Freud’s disease brings the antagonists closer together, a development director William Hayes exploits to good effect. Neither character leaves the encounter unmoved, and it’s likely few audience members will either.
Brandon K Thorp reviewed for the Palm Beach/Broward New Times.  Sadly, in what is probably his last review in South Florida, we never hear what he thinks of the production as a whole, or even the performances of the actors.  He mentions Hayes' "impressive" direction, but gives no examples of it.  How sad that one of the regions fiercest voices goes out with a whimper.  Me, I 'd like to believe that an incompetent editor gutted it, so I will.

So here is the one paragraph that almost reads like a proper review:
Creaghan, under the impressive direction of William Hayes, spends most of the play subverting the script's imagined parity between the two men. So does Oden, who makes Lewis seem flaky, even vaguely cowardly: He has the neophyte's puppyish enthusiasm for evangelism, but his voice quivers, and half the time he looks scared out of his wits. He has the language of his convictions but no commensurate courage. We know he is a veteran of the First World War; Oden's performance suggests he'd feel more comfortable in a foxhole than arguing with Sigmund Freud.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
If you were the kind of college student who sat up till the wee hours with your roommate arguing philosophical questions, you’ll revel in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ intellectual fencing match, Freud’s Last Session.

But if you seek a story arc, epiphanies or even narrative closure, you’ve come to the wrong place.
This is a battle of equals. Dennis Creaghan’s Freud is an irascible force whose physical problems have not dimmed the razor edge of his crystalline intellect or his wicked nose-tweaking humor.
Christopher Oden’s Lewis is no didactic ideologue but a gentle searcher for the elusive specifics of a general truth he has believes in completely.
The pair cross-examine each other like intellectual duelists. They try to find flaws in each other’s arguments, not to demean or demolish the other’s ego, but in a shared search for truth.
...the inescapable failing of the script is that other than one slight twist at the end, neither man walks away changed; no one even gets an upper hand during the struggle. There is no character development. This is simply an entertaining airing of intriguing issues. So like a shark, it has to keep moving.
A plus in the Dramaworks’ production is that no set designer in South Florida creates period environments with the skill and attention to detail like Mike Amico. Freud’s study with its well-worn books, scores of collected antiquities and slightly mismatched furniture transported from Berlin exudes a sense of age encrusted with dust.
Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
Theater at its most basic is about language and ideas. That is well illustrated by Mark St. Germain’s two-character debate play, Freud’s Last Session...
Artistic director William Hayes is well-suited to helm the play in its Southeastern premiere here, for he knows to focus on the words, while taking care that this matchup does not seem static. That effort is helped considerably by a pair of nimble verbal jousters – Dennis Creaghan (Freud) and Chris Oden (Lewis).
Creaghan demonstrates why he is one of South Florida’s most versatile performers, disappearing behind Freud’s snowy beard and Viennese accent, while offering a compelling portrait of one of the most revolutionary thinkers of the 20th century.

Oden, who played Heisenberg in last season’s Copenhagen, emphasizes the reverence that Lewis has for Freud, attacking his nihilistic view of the world with respect and a bit of sadness. Together, they are fascinating, parrying and thrusting verbally, picking apart each other’s arguments with surgical precision.
Michael Amico contributes another visually intriguing, detailed set in which the analyst’s couch is a central focus.
Freud's Last Session plays at Palm Beach DramaWorks through February 6, 2010.

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