Oct. 30--No one knows who the legendary psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud met with in the two weeks before he committed suicide on Sept. 23, 1939.
But playwright Mark St. Germain's imagined encounter between Freud and the writer and philosopher C.S. Lewis forms the basis of the play, "Freud's Last Session," that was a long-running hit off-Broadway and is now being produced by theaters all over the country.
The Square One Theatre Company production of the play opens Friday, Nov. 1, at the Stratford Theatre.
For artistic director Tom Holehan, "Freud's Last Session" is a perfect "smart but entertaining" play in the tradition of Square One's productions of "A Walk in the Woods" and an earlier St. Germain play, "Camping with Henry and Tom."
"I love his stuff because he likes to deal with 'what if?' situations. What if Lewis -- an atheist who converted to Catholicism -- met with Freud and they talked about all of the big topics: religion, sex, death," Holehan said.
Freud's dark, scientific, God-less view of the universe and Lewis' belief in something beyond this life are pointed up in the play by the fact that war is about to break out in Europe and Freud is suffering from the oral cancer that would push him to take his own life in a few weeks.
"Of course, it's a producer's dream, too. Two characters, one set, one act," Holehan added, laughing.
Gabriel Morrow of Norwalk is making his Square One debut as Lewis, while the production marks the latest of many collaborations between Holehan and Fairfield actor Al Kulcsar, who has become an audience favorite for the wide range and high quality of his performances over the last 20 years.
"I adore him," Holehan said. "I haven't found anything he can't do. He is very thoughtful about the work and very smart. ... The audience knows he will give them a good show."
In a separate interview, Kulcsar said Holehan has a knack for offering him roles he can't resist, at a point in his life when he isn't interested in acting for the sake of acting.
"It was irresistible to delve into a historic figure of that stature. ... Freud was such a complex man. ... It's a once in a lifetime role," the actor said of his quick "yes" to the director's offer.
Because the play is entirely speculative, Kulcsar found research to be of limited use in this case.
"I have to check myself, because I'm not necessarily playing Freud -- it's the playwright's version of Freud. It was two weeks before he died and he was in such pain that he could hardly walk or carry on a conversation. But in this play he's quite lively. I think it's an impressionistic idea of the man," Kulcsar said.
Playing Henry Ford in the same writer's "Camping with Henry and Tom" was a career highlight for the actor.
"I still look back on that as one of the best things I've ever done at Square One. The language is so rich and the situations so ingenious," Kulcsar said of St. Germain's ability to make historical figures come alive on stage.
The actor believes audiences will be gripped by the primal issues that arise in "Freud's Last Session."
"They're not things that go through our heads every day. We tend to put them aside," Kulcsar said of issues such as mortality and faith. "But here you have a contest between these two guys that is just so stimulating."
email@example.com; Twitter: @joesview
Stratford Theatre, 2422 Main St., Stratford. Friday, Nov. 1-Saturday, Nov. 16. $20-$19. 203-375-8778, www.squareonetheatre.com.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @joesview
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