Ron Reed laughed at the suggestion he is obsessed by writer C.S. Lewis, but when you consider he played him in a production of Shadowlands ten years ago, adapted The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the stage in 2009, brought The Great Divorce to Pacific Theatre in 2011, and is currently writing his own play that will feature the writer, it does check all the boxes. For Reed though, who is artistic director at Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre, his fascination with the novelist started innocently enough.
“When I was a child I stumbled on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and read it again and again,” says Reed. “In those days I didn’t know there was a series, and when I discovered the others they became favourites of mine as a child.”
A number of years later, the connection to the man Reed first found in reading his Narnia series became even more personal.
“When I was in high school I had this spiritual awakening, or epiphany, or whatever you want to call it, and I once again stumbled on more books by Lewis, this time about faith,” he recalls. “I had not realized that he was a Christian and that he had such a great mind. I was a very curious and skeptical believer, and I found his writings astounding.”
Helping to solidify his admiration for the man and his work once again, Reed appears in the Pacific Theatre production of Mark St. Germain’s Freud’s Last Session. As an imagined meeting between Lewis (Evan Frayne) and Sigmund Freud (Reed), it will come as no surprise that in this fictionalised encounter the two men discuss some pretty heady topics including the existence of god, and the ultimate question, the meaning of life.
“It is about a clash of hundreds of ideas,” says Reed. “They give and take, and score some points with each other quite dramatically.”
Describing the play much like a boxing match, Reed characterizes their discussion as combative, but also very sly as the two men had very different views, especially given their conflicting beliefs on religion.
“They come to a tremendous respect and a kind of an affection for each other,” says Reed. “Lewis was a devout atheist for decades before coming to faith, so they can still understand each other even when they don’t always agree.”
Central to the story is Freud’s real-life battle with cancer, which resulted in excruciating pain. Ultimately choosing death by assisted suicide, Freud’s decision is all too raw for Reed as we grapple with our own debate about the subject in Canada today.
“I remember coming back from Vancouver Island a few weeks ago and hearing a piece on CBC radio about doctor assisted suicide and thought, wow, we’re in the middle of doing a play that touches on that very subject,” says Reed.
Given the divergent views that Lewis and Freud had on many of the topics explored in Freud’s Last Session, it is also not surprising that there are no ready answers, with Reed saying it will ultimately be up audiences to decide which camp they fall into at any given moment.
“Audiences will either find it galling or exhilarating depending on which side of a particular argument they find themselves on. And for those that perhaps don’t have any opinion, they might just walk away with one after seeing the show.”
Freud’s Last Session plays Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12 Ave, Vancouver) April 24-May 30. Visit http://pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.