Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Freud’s Last Session”

It is not often that we, the Chicago theater audiences get to experience the major Off-Broadway productions, as many of them are not strong enough to support a “road company”. Well, we have one now! “Freud’s Last Session”, Mark St. Germain’s hit show, now in its second year in New York, is here in Chicago, at the Mercury Theater ( a perfect theater for an intimate show like this) and while it is still running in the “big apple” the original stars have made the journey to Chicago as other companies will be opening or playing in places like London.Madrid, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro,Singapore, Los Angeles and Mexico City.

The play is about legendary Dr. Sigmund Freud ( played to utter perfection by Martin Rayner), who has invited a young C.S. Lewis ( brilliantly handled by Mark H. Dold)) to his home in London. Lewis thinks he has been invited to be scolded for this rips at Freud in his book, but finds that Freud has not even read the book and , in fact, has an agenda all together different. The date of this “meeting” is September 3, 1939-the day that England entered into World War II ( or so we are told in this, perhaps fictional meeting that is suggested by  “The Question of God” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi,Jr. professor of psychology at Harvard University.

This is an intense , yet comical, look at the personalities and characters of two scholarly men, who clash on the very existence of many topics: God, Love, sex and the meaning of life itself. Freud has cancer and knows that his death is imminent, but feels the need to explore his thoughts with this young “rising star” i the literary world. Dold handles the nervous tension felt by Lewis at the onset very well, and as the 90 minutes of chatter and chess playing with ideas between the two men proceed, we see his character become stronger and more forceful, and yet, while he gets stronger , he never loses sight of the man he is with and his respect and admiration for him.

Freud, on the other hand, feels the need to convince himself that perhaps it would be better for his daughter for him to die by his own hand. Why have his friends and family struggle with the pain of what they know is about to come while a war is taking place around them? This is an amazing piece directed to perfection by Tyler Marchant on Brian Prather’s beautiful and striking set that appears to be a replica of the library/ study in Freud’s London home- filled with books and relics that are amazing. There is no credit given the props people on this one, but they have done amazing work finding ( or building) what we see onstage, and with worldwide companies the challenge to duplicate and replicate is one big task! The lighting ( Clifton Taylor) and sound (Beth Lake) and the costumes (Mark Mariani) are the final touches to a spellbinding production- one that will give you a little history, a few laughs and some topics to think about and discuss on the way home.

The Mercury Theatre is the perfect house for this intimate little peek into two legends as they boldly address the greatest questions of all time, while they bond as men who care and respect each other, as men and as scholars. Thos of you who enjoy a good chess match or even a tennis match will delight as you watch these actors play off each other in bringing these characters to life. “Last Session” will continue at The Mercury through June 3rd ( I do believe it will get extended) with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.

Tickets range from $45-$55 ( students with valid ID  $22) and a limited amount of “rush” tickets may be available on day of performance starting 3 hours prior to curtain

 To order tickets call 773-325-1700 or visit www.mercurytheaterchicago.com

The Mercury is located at 3745 N. Southport in Wrigleyville, so I always suggest you look at The Cubs schedule when planning your visit as local are restaurants, parking and even public transportation can be a bit of a problem. The theater does offer valet parking and some of the area restaurants do as well.

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