You wouldn't think a meeting between two such sober thinkers as Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis would turn out like a backstage romp with a couple of stand-up comedians.
While Mark St. Germain's play about an imagined meeting between the two isn't truly a jokefest, there is significant humor in their brief but thoughtful encounter.
In the new production of "Freud's Last Session" now at B Street Theatre's B3 Series, we witness an imagined meeting between the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and Christian writer C.S. Lewis. The meeting occurs on the day England enters World War II and three weeks before Freud would take his own life.
At just over an hour, the play takes the form of a lively debate between the men on subjects close to their minds and hearts. The existence of God, the need for religion, and the basis of Freud's theories on sex are all on the table. It could be fascinating, or not.
There's little real drama in the play it is, after all, just the two men talking in Freud's Hampstead study. But the ideas are clear and the arguments universal. St. Germain also makes it all personal, delving into Freud's relationship with his daughter, Anna, and Lewis' living arrangement with the mother of an old friend.
The crafty veteran David Silberman plays the resolute Freud and gifted Jason Kuykendall has a strong turn as a feisty Lewis. The actors are equals as their real-life counterparts would have been, and they create a strong and believable dynamic of respectful intellectuals inhabiting their opposite positions with ease.
There are telling moments in the play for each man. Freud tells of his unhappy childhood and disgust with his father. Lewis tells of his dissatisfaction with religion until a conversation with his close friend and Oxford colleague J.R.R. Tolkien ("The Lord of the Rings") won him over.
Thankfully, St. Germain includes all the humor he can manufacture. The little drama comes from Freud's painful complications from cancer, which repeatedly interrupt the discussion, and radio updates on England's entrance into the war. (Freud eventually committed suicide through morphine injections with the help of friend and doctor Max Schur.)
Freud actually sends Lewis off with a joke at the end of their discussion referring to his early study of humor, "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious." Lewis makes a number of sarcastic observations throughout the lively debate as well, and while there's no particular evidence he was as wry as St. Germain paints him, the edge is necessary for the play.
Director Jerry Montoya sharply develops the relationship, and the two men seem like old friends even though they have little common ground.
FREUD'S LAST SESSION
What: In this fictional account, Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis meet to talk on the day England enters WWII.
Where: B Street Theatre B3 Series Stage, 2727 B St., Sacramento
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursdays, 7 p.m. Fridays, 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 1. Thursday and Sunday matinees on selected dates only. Call box office for details.
Time: 60 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $18-$30, $5 student rush
Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org