In the darkness, an agitated man tells a woman in a white coat that he’s not sure about therapy. An interesting start, given that the man is David Freud, great-great-grandson of “the other one,” Sigmund Freud. To learn how the characters reached this point, the story moves back in time, a journey in which the audience willingly joins for the intriguing Freud Meets Girl.
David Freud (Eric Messner) is a psychology professor but he’s quick to point out that he believes in cognitive psychology and strives to explain memory and emotions through mathematics, unlike his famous forebear. In fact, he’s been working on a machine that could probe deep into the electrochemical reaches of our brains to interpret dreams. If he can just find a test subject, someone new who he barely knows so that his perceptions will not impact the validity of the test.
Enter the charming and beautiful graduate student Sophie (Laura C. Harris), whose response to the danger of the test is “Safety is overrated.” The two have an instant intellectual and romantic chemistry, a fact not lost on David’s lawyer wife Becca (Katie Atkinson) and his friend Roger (Tony Bullock). Sophie also has a quick rapport with the machine (“Why does everyone call it a robot?” David complains). While the machine has an acronym-created name of NORM, it is portrayed on stage by Misty Demory speaking in a flat monotone.
Thanks to little hints dropped along the way, we sense this experiment is going to face difficulties. To open up a subject to the machine’s mental probing, the process requires inhalation of a gas that must be taken in exactly the right quantity or it could be dangerous, warns graduate student Oscar (Andres Taléro). If you expect malfunctions, accidental revelations, and a surprise ending, you will not be alone.
Freud Meets Girl is exactly the type of creative and inventive type of work that a Fringe festival should attract. It is an interesting story about individuals driven to using science to explore topics that might best be left to the human heart.
Both the story and the staging are wonderfully imaginative. At first, it seems like the tale would be better told as an episode of a TV sci-fi anthology series, such as “The Outer Limits.” Yet after seeing how creatively director Randy Baker stages the story, it is hard to imagine it being better presented any other way.
Freud Meets Girl is a clever story with enjoyable humor which turns into a mind-blowing experience (yes, I intended that pun). While occasionally a little obvious, the story receives a fine production with a talented cast. It is both entertaining and thought-provoking, as a superlative Capital Fringe offering should be.
[Note: While author Hunter Styles writes for DC Theatre Scene, that fact did not impact my review.]
Freud Meets Girl
Written by Hunter Styles
Directed by Randy Baker
Presented by Wayward Theatre
Reviewed by Steven McKnight