Chatting it up with Freud and Lewis

One of the many perks of working at the Pittsburgh Public Theater is the ability to be able to "sneak in" to see the show once in awhile and I was very thankful to be able to do so tonight, to see the performance of Freud's Last Session. The play, which was written by Mark St. German, is based on the novel, The Question of God by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. Both of which imagine what it would've been like if Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis ever met in person.

Until April 1st at the PPT.
The play takes place on September 3, 1939 in Freud's study in London. During that time, Freud would have been 83 and nearing the end of his career, and life (he died 20 days later), while C.S. Lewis was still in the beginning stages of his career at the age of 40. Prior to tonight's performance I read the script to be able to get a better grasp on what to talk to patron's about if they would ask me about the play before seeing it (which they always do). But before reading the script, I have studied Freud in college and have read some of Lewis' work so I knew what the play would basically be about already. For those of you who don't know, Freud was a neurologist who founded psychoanalysis and was an atheist and Lewis was a writer, literary critic and a Christian apologist. So you might see where this play is going.

As a whole, the production was fabulous. Each actor was more than believable as their characters and they were passionate about their lines, which makes me wonder what they personally believe to be the truth. The set is gorgeous and when there was little or no talking going on I caught myself staring at the vast bookshelf and wondering what each of them are. Every little detail down to the lighting showing a faint window outline on the floor (since the play is set during the day and the sun would be shining through these large imaginary windows) to the specific artifacts scattered about the study were all perfectly represented. But I was glad that I read the script prior to seeing the show because certain parts were hard to understand because of the accents each character has and the fact that Freud's character is supposed to be in his final stages of oral cancer, which although makes some of what he says hard to understand, it makes his character more real.

Aside from the play, as you should be able to know from either knowing me personally, or by reading the "Bio" section of my blog, I'm on team Lewis. I am a Christian and believe that Jesus died on a cross for me and everyone else in the world, even those who don't believe He did. But going into the show, I tried to put those beliefs aside to be able to get a full grasp of the ideas each character presented. And I must say, they both (of course) made some great points. They were both brilliant men, how could they not? It would've been unfair to let one of the character's "win" or "outsmart" the other in the play, considering we as the human race, don't really know who is right. Though I personally don't believe that, I cannot speak for our species as a whole. The conversation between the two men in real life probably would have played out very much like the performance does with each one getting an edge and a set back in their arguments over and over until they finished their conversation...with no real winner at the end, and probably neither of them a changed man.

Jonathan Crombie as C.S. Lewis and David Wohl as Freud
Even though I tried to put my bias aside to watch the show, I still agreed with Lewis' character at the end of the play. Many times throughout the performance I found myself wanting to add to the discussion...that's good acting. A fictitious conversation is happening in front of me - yet I want to join in? Well done, Public Theater! However, Freud's character makes a great point during the early moments of the play, the dialog goes like this...
Lewis - What if it isn't a lie? Have you considered how terrifying it might be to realize that you were wrong?
Freud - No more terrifying than it would be for you.
This interaction is so striking to me because I feel that it is the most basic question that everyone, no matter what their beliefs, must face at some point in the journey...what if it isn't true? One of my roommates who is a devout Christian always likes to say "I'd rather be safe than sorry when it all comes to an end." Which, I'm cool with thinking too on my more questionable days; even though usually I know, that I know, that I know, Jesus is not a lie.

The greatest line I think in the whole play is one of Lewis' last lines, and basically sums up what I think many Christians actually feel everyday.
Lewis - My idea of God; it constantly changes. He shatters it, time and time again. Still, I feel the world is crowed with Him. He is everywhere. Incognito. And His incognito - it's so hard to penetrate. The real struggle is to keep trying. To come awake. Then stay awake.
This line is so poetic to me because of it's massive truth. Once you think you've figured God out, He does something to mess up all your thoughts completely. There will never be a full grasp on Him, never a complete understanding and anyone who says they can do so is the biggest liar of them all. The constant chase after Him is tiring sometimes, but worth it in the end I'm sure. I like that this line says that the world is crowded with Him, because I think that people have a tendency to ask where God is in the everyday or in the problems of the world. But I think that's part of the struggle, part of the humbling, like you become closer to Him when you really realize He is everywhere and in everyone, even the people who don't want Him there.

To come awake. Then stay awake. No one said the journey would be easy, but it will be worth it.

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