THE BASICS: Mark St. Germain’s two character historical fantasy has been directed by Katie Mallinson for Road Less Traveled Productions, and plays weekends through Feb 14th at the new Road Less Traveled Theater, 500 Pearl Street (the old Buffalo Christian Center). The play, which is performed without an intermission, runs a little under 90 minutes.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: The action (read: conversation) takes place in Sigmund Freud’s private study in London, in September of 1939. The world is on the very brink of WWII. Sigmund Freud, 83 and in failing health, has invited author and theologian C.S. Lewis over for a chat. Freud, a hardened atheist, can’t understand how a man of Lewis’s intellect and abilities can be taken in by “the delusion” of a deity. And so, following initial brief amenities, they talk—about God, man, art, science, war, sex, the subconscious, all the Big Topics. They thrust and parry verbally, making points, probing apparent inconsistencies, sometimes even agreeing. It all ends quietly, without any winners or losers. We, the audience, have been the proverbial “fly on the wall”.
THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION: St. Germain’s play is Theater of Ideas—heady stuff, but not all that deep. As the conversation scurries from one thing to the next, I found myself wishing for more on individual topics, and for more time to digest this duo’s rapid fire remarks. But the pace is deliberate, I think, designed to give the proceedings lustre, and to keep the piece from getting “bogged down” in deep dish philosophy. In an effort to keep the back-and-forth thing from being too lulling, St. Germain punctuates the many exchanges with occasional phone calls (for Sigmund) and radio announcements (WWII is declared). It all works pretty well, but St. Germain is clearly no Bernard Shaw!
Director Katie Mallinson manages to keep her actors moving about, and in pretty good balance. I particularly liked Matt Witten’s C.S.Lewis—nice, gentlemanly quality, dry wit, a pinch of humility, and a good British accent. The Freud character, more fully drawn, is that of an irascible genius who has all the answers, pretty much worships himself, and cannot brook being wrong about anything. Veteran David Oliver certainly delivers the goods, although his performance is a bit more “actor-y” than Witten’s.
The set by Dyan Burlingame is very intriguing—a realistic interior with giant symbolist forms—right out of Freud—all around the periphery. Kudos! The nice period costumes are by Maura Simmonds-Price. While presently in disrepair, the new RLTP theater has great bones and tremendous potential. I expect that they will be refurbishing it for quite some time! Happily, there are rows of comfortable modern row seats in place right now.
IN SUM: A nice, solid little two-hander for the intellectual crowd, FREUD’S LAST CASE has been well staged by RLDP, and certainly deserves your consideration.
Photos: by Vincent Lopez
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!