01/23/2013 05:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Theater Review: Freud's Last Session at Broad Stage

Mark St. Germain's play, Freud's Last Session. is receiving its West Coast premiere at Broad Stage in Santa Monica with the original New York director Tyler Marchant at the helm.

It's 1939. Hitler is rising in power. England is on the brink of declaring war on Germany. Against this backdrop we witness the impending war of ideologies in an imaginary meeting between the father of psychoanalysis and committed atheist Sigmund Freud (Judd Hirsch) and the devout Anglican and future famous author C.S. Lewis (Tom Cavanaugh).

In the incessant battle between science and religion, Freud takes on the role of science while Lewis is steadfast in his conversion from atheist to Christian devotee. Germain's play balances intellectual depth with humor and compassion. The big questions get asked. Does God exist? If he does why does man suffer in war and disease? Are human beings inherently bisexual? Are our adult lives and relationships really just a rehashing of original, primary relationships with our parents? And, is there a truth greater than ourselves that we must awaken to? The themes at play are man in a struggle with himself, others, and religion.

Under Marchant's skilled direction Hirsch, without being sentimental fully embodies a dying 83-year-old Freud plagued with arrogance and mouth cancer. He adroitly reveals Freud's vulnerability while displaying his brilliance. Cavanaugh imbues Lewis with compassion and empathy. He displays a sense of helplessness and longing for peace while remaining committed to his religious convictions

Ultimately, Germain leaves us to ponder these questions while also pondering if war is a phenomenon that provides us with the mechanism by which we know peace, and therefore, indefinitely entrenched in our reality. These questions are clearly worth considering as eloquently displayed by this production and the play's global success.