Sometimes a play is just a play
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Each year when we go to Cape May, we take in a play – sometimes, two.
This year, we only had time to go to one and we barely managed to get tickets for it, having to dodge rain drops the whole way from the mall booth on Washington Street to the under the stairway portable office of the Cap May Stage ticket person and her laptop.
We got balcony seats – a new feature added this year from a past when the old church near the town square had mere folding chairs.
I had my doubts, and we actually had to climb a winding set of stairs to get to the seats, only to suffer the embarrassment of sitting in the wrong seats at first with a rail blocking part of the view, and then finding our right seats to the top.
Cape May Stage always puts on a provocative play – most years tied to upcoming Halloween, and if you stretch this idea a little, this play was about the horrors of the holocaust and inner mind.
Called “Freud’s Last Session,” the play pitting Christianity against the more modern religion of Freud (since largely abandoned for yet even more outrageous interpretations of psychological faith0. In this, a writer who had once been an advocate of Freud meets up with the good doctor in a discussion about god, faith and reality.
Armed with JRR Tolkien, C.S, Lewis, Chesterton and the other intellectuals Christians have come to rely as a defense against agonistics, the writer did verbal battle for the length of the two hour play and ultimately came to a draw, agreeing to disagree about the existence of God and faith, while radio reports announced the first steps into World War II and the horrors it would bring to the world.
A brilliant, thought-provoking play, it delved less into the nature of evil (and those who embrace such as their religion) as it did into the concept of belief itself, whether we are the result of trauma suffered in birth and early years or the product of creation out of which we are destined by god and other powers to become something else. Why do we have free will to choose between good and evil? (Freud does not believe in free will, saying we are doomed from the start to whatever forces shaped us and no matter how much we struggle, we cannot deviate. Is it any wonder we seek god’s help with a philosophy so pessimistic.)
Freud at this point in his life is dying of cancer (but he still smokes cigars) and is looking for something at the end of his life that his lack of faith cannot give him.
He knows he will soon die, and has invited the writer to talk in this final session that sometimes winds up with the writer on the couch, and talk about their father’s and their frustrations, and how each struggled to find personal identity as a result of this complex.
Both men suffered with the same demons and the questions as to what would happen when doom comes either in the shape of a Nazi bomb, or the out of control cancer cells. One sought god after serious discussions with members of the Inklings – a group of Christian writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien who were seeking to create a modern Christian tale that would help define their faith.
In the end, death is always a question, and the pursuit of good or evil, sometimes is defined by what we believe happens when the dark cloud descends. But morality – and Freud is moral – is about personal integrity, belief that good is worth pursing for its own sake, not because of fear.
In the end, both men are true believers in some higher power, one believing this comes from heaven, while the other from the self that does battle with its own demons and comes out on the right side long before death.
But these two men still struggle and become friends at the end, not because they agree, but because they are truth seekers, people who are engaged in the same pursuit of something that has value beyond mere personal salvation, although one sees salvation as possible while other sees only death as a final curtain to a life long play he is forced to live.
The play left me thoughtful for the walk back to the beach and to the club, where I drenched myself in rum and pop music, and still, even with guitars screaming and singers prompting the audience to party, I thought of that moment on the stage when the writer and Freud both huddled in fear at the sound of air raid sirens. Even when you are certain of what comes later, you still fear coming to it in the end.