Two Hander for the Ages: Freud’s Last Session at the Odyssey

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Through March 4th at the Odyssey Theatre, Mark St. Germain’s two- character play, Freud’s Last Session sets two iconic figures side by side. And once so positioned, they debate, spar, agree, disagree, and passionately digress in a strong acting tour de force.

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Martin Rayner as Sigmund Freud and Martyn Stanbridge as C.S. Lewis both convey their characters needs, wants, desires, and beliefs, bringing to life a profound 90 minutes of dialog that takes place on the day that England enters World War II.

Set in Freud’s convivial study, Lewis is a guest, invited to debate the existence of God with Freud. Just who has the more twisty and tenacious psychological profile, or the more defiant view of life, death, and war is the shifting point of the dialogue.

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Rayner’s Freud is charming and witty, and a touch explosive. But then who wouldn’t be, contemplating suicide as a way to escape the ravages of oral cancer. Stanbridge’s Lewis is more even keel, but falls into a rhythm of sparring with Freud, enjoying the music of language as much as the arguments themselves may frustrate him.

The central crux of their disagreements arise around Lewis’ recent conversion to the Anglican faith, while Freud, as the father of psychoanalysis, is adamant that such a conversion is foolishness and blissfully unaware of his own psychological foibles. The debate is interrupted by radio announcements and music, the threat of German bombs, an off-stage barking dog, and the death-rattle coughs of Freud.

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Mostly they talk, and under lesser hands the dialogue might lag. With Rayner and Stanbridge, however, there is so much life and vibrance to the performances – they simply embody their characters and make them into people we want to meet and get to know – that we’re compelled to listen and keep doing so.

Tense and insightful, no matters debated here are resolved neatly; rather the human condition, and a very human stubborn adherence to ones beliefs, are the meaty heart of this two-man play.

The Odyssey is located at 2055 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. For more information visit www.odysseytheatre.com or call (310) 477-2055 

Waiting for Grace: Looking for Love at the Odyssey

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Above, actress and writer Sharon Sharth.

In the late ’70s, Joni Mitchell sang in the transcendent Hejira, “I know, no one’s going to show me everything/We all come and go unknown/Each so deep and superficial/ Between the forceps and the stone.”

 

In some inchoate but poignant way Sharon Sharth’s semi-autobiographical play, Waiting for Grace, reminded me of that song. While the play is often brilliantly funny, it’s also moving; the search for love and marriage by a no-longer-young, yet still attractive actress is both personal and universal, filled with longing and delight, despair and hope.

Directed by Lee Costello, the play is essentially a one-woman show, albeit ably supported by a brilliant cast playing various roles as Grace’s boyfriends, therapists, and parents.

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The plot is simple: Grace (Sharth herself, a burning spark both searing and sexy) long focused on her career, now wants marriage and motherhood, but cannot find a man able to provide her with a ring or a child. Some are too clingy, some angry, some distant – all are played by the chameleon Jeff LeBeau. Therapist, parents, and relationship counselor all come into play trying to advise her, until at last she meets “the one,” David (Todd Babcock).

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Her dream man isn’t perfect either, and in fact, until the last moments, the audience is never sure that even David will prove worthy of Grace’s somewhat neurotic love.

The play is warm and affectionate overall, with acerbic and bittersweet asides. The weakest link is when Grace tries to have a child with David, but that’s a quibble. The script is sharp, witty, powerful, and brave.

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Sharth takes on the pain of looking for love (in all the wrong places and with all the wrong guys), aging, feminism, the meaning of marriage — and comes up with the only conclusion that can possible be reached: waiting for grace isn’t easy, but in the end, she/it can be found.

Quoting Mitchell again, “I’m traveling in some vehicle/I’m sitting in some cafe/ A defector from the petty wars/Until love sucks me back that way.”

Running through December 11th, don’t miss the chance to find Grace.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: courtesy of the Odyssey