A strife of Faith and Disbelief without a winner

By Iride Aparicio

Photos by Kevin Berne

Sigmund Freud 1

SAN JOSÉ, CA –  One of the two characters in the Bay Area premiere of FREUD’S LAST SESSION, the intellectual play written by MARK St. GERMAIN, inspired by the book of Dr. ARMAND M. NICHOLI’s Jr.   “The Question of God,” is SIGMUND FREUD better known around the world as "the Father of psychoanalysis"

FREUD was a Jewish born in Freiburg, Moravia, then part of the Austrian Empire, on May 6, l856. When he was five, his family moved to Vienna where he grew up and later on enrolled in Medical School.

He began his career as a neurologist. In l885, however, after going to Paris to study Hysteric patients with neurologist Jean Martin Charcot, he  became convinced of the possibility that mental disorders might be caused by purely psychological factors.

In l895, after returning to his office located in  Berggasse 13 in Vienna, and  with the collaboration of  Physician Josef  Breuer, FREUD wrote Studien uber Hysterics (Studies on Hysteria) a book in which FREUD presented his psychoanalytical methods for the first time.

Yet it was not until one year later, in October 23, l896 when Jacob Freud, FREUD’s father died,  that SIGMUND trying to overcome all his painful and confusing feelings decided to psycho- analyze himself. 

During his studies, he had discovered that a “road to the unconscious” were the person’s dreams and FREUD had developed his own method which he called “free-association,” to decipher them. The method consisted in paying attention to anything that came to mind, so every night, he put himself in “the couch” and allowed himself to “free associate” around his dreams. We must add that, at first, the process of self-analysis made him feel worse instead of better because by analyzing himself he was looking at his mistakes and at all that was shameful in his life reviving all the anxiety feelings that he had kept dormant for years in his subconscious mind.

In spite of that, his self analysis was considered a monumental achievement. He had been the first person to eradicate his own self defenses, overcome his own resistance and interpret his own unconscious mind arriving at the understanding of neurosis. By l920, doctor SIGMUND FREUD was a household name, the most famous psychiatrist in the world.

In l938 after Austria was affiliated by Nazi Germany, SIGMUND FREUD being a famous Jewish scientist, was forced to leave Vienna. He died in London on Sept. 23, l939.

C.S. Lewis
BEN EVETT in the role of C.S. LEWIS

The second character in the ST. GERMAIN’S play is CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS, better known as C. S. LEWIS. He was an Irish man Born in Belfast, Ireland on November 29, l898. As a child, LEWIS had been baptized in the church of Ireland (The Anglican church) but during his adolescence he fell away from his faith when he was attending the preparatory school of Cherbourg House which he called “Chartres”

His autobiography explains that LEWIS became an atheist and for a while got interested in mythology and the occult. He also became interested in the stories of Scandinavia because they reminded him of his love for nature.
He began using different forms in his writing including epic poetry with which he tried to express his new love for mythology.

As an adult, LEWIS became a scholar, a broadcaster and a novelist of children’s literature, fantasy and science fiction. Influenced by the book The Everlasting Man written by G.K. Chesterton Lewis became interested in Christianity again and re-embraced it during his arguments with his close friend novelist J.R.R. Tolkien who served, as he did, on the English faculty of Oxford University. Tolkien’s influence not only helped Lewis, at age 32, to return to the church of England but also to become a “Layman," a Christian apologist (one who writes in defense of Christianity) and a lay theologian

His new-found faith had a tremendous effect on Lewis' work as a broadcaster during the war and also in his writings, among them:  The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Space Trilogy, to name a few. LEWIS died in Oxford, England on November 22 l963.

Superbly directed by STEPHEN WRENTMORE and produced by the Arizona Theatre Company, FREUD’S LAST SESSION, the drama, starts with Freud (J.MICHAEL FLYNN) now living in England, working in an office, decorated by his daughter, which is the exact replica of his clinic in Vienna.  At curtain, he isvery ill. He has been told that he has an inoperable Cancer in his mouth, which he describes as “my monster,” which is eating at his flesh. He bleeds when he talks too long and when he caught, he chokes on his own blood.

It is September of  l939 (a few weeks before he died) and many things have been happening in Europe: The Nazis had invaded Poland. Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand had declared war on Germany. The British Royal Air Force had attacked the German Navy.

As Freud waits in his office for C.S. Lewis,  he listens to the news in his radio. When C. S. Lewis (BENJAMIN EVETT) enters Freud’s clinic to pay a visit, which may or may not ever happened in reality, Lewis, is already an Oxford professor and a well-known Christian writer who had criticized Fred’s complete disbelief in God in his work.

Sigmund Freud/C.S. Lewis 1

Their battle of words starts when Lewis asks Freud why he has invited him to visit his clinic and Freud responds that his reason was that he was curious, because he cannot believe that such an intelligent person (as Lewis) could believe in what Freud considers a lie (Religion.).

During their very civilized argument, on Religion's merits and its flaws, Freud (Flynn) allows us to see his bitterness towards God, which in his opinion is cruel. Freud still cannot forgive HIM for allowing his five years old brother get tuberculosis and die. He still wonders why?

Their conversation goes on.  They argue about various topics: free will, women and life in general, in a faith vs.disbelief cerebral war of words  handled by both of them in an intellectual manner. There is no shouting, no cutting each other’s sentences and both present their theories so well that as we listen to their arguments we realize that there is no loser, and no winner. At  the end, we see that even Lewis (EVETT) seem to wonder why things are allowed to happen, when during his visit, he hears the warning sirens and the bomber planes flying overhead. His awareness of the war causes a meltdown. In a flash back, he associates the noise with the time he was a soldier. He sees himself in the battlefield and in a broken voice starts describing what he saw: the a bombs explosions that wounded him with shrapnel. His best friend being blown up. He doesn’t say a word, yet his marvelous acting allows the audience to realize that in spite of all his faith, Lewis cannot understand either how can a merciful God allows these things to happen. It was madness to think that these two men could have been able to solve all  the mysteries of the world in  in a few hours, but as Freud says “It could have been a greatest madness not to have tried it at all.”

The excellent acting of both EVETT and FLYNN keep the audience spellbound for the 1 hour and 22 minutes of the drama. It was so “real” that it gave us the impression of watching a life encounter.

The realism, is also due to set, designed  KENT DORSEY, which is and exact replica of Freud’s clinic in Vienna: The three large windows, in the back of the room, draped by elegant curtains, the bookcases filled with books on the walls, the famous  couch, decorated with small pillows and covered with a colorful blanket. Freud’s famous chair with a narrow back rest and his large desk, covered with a series of small statuettes.

The conversation ends suddenly after a bloody coughing spell which makes the audience aware that Freud's (FLYNN)) end is near and that soon he is going to keep his promise to commit suicide before succumbing to his malignant cancer.

Watching this true- to- live performance, we ask ourselves if  it would be possible that Freud's great discovery, his psychoanalysis  was the cause of  his cancer. Modern medicine has discovered that tumors can be created when a person is full of negative emotions or deeply frustrated by his or her mistakes in the past.  In other words, that negative thoughts can cause a person to stop producing the antibodies needed to combat diseases and even effect the cells’ growth in such a way that the cells start reproducing abnormally causing cancers.

Sigmund Freud/C.S. Lewis 2
 L-R   Here C.S. Lewis appears to have gained  the attention of Freud

We know that when Freud developed his “free-association,” to interpret his own dreams, he put himself in “the couch” every night and allowed himself to “free associate” for hours. We also know that his self-analysis made him feel worse, at the beginning, because analyzing himself he was looking at all his past mistakes, at all that was shameful in his life thus reviving all his anxieties. So we wonder, could it be possible that Freud’s constant rehashing of his past and his daily psychoanalysis destroyed the antibodies in his body and produced his cancer?

FREUD’S LAST SESSION will play at San Jose Rep, l01 Paseo de San Antonio in San Jose until November 4.  For tickets and information call 1-408-367-7255 or go online to http://www.sjrep.com.