John Michalski as Dr. Freud and Cooper Grodin as Dr. Jung in a
scene from Secrets: The Untold Story of Sigmund Freud & Carl
Jung (Photo credit: G.N. Miller)
Ken Wydro’s new play, Secrets: The Untold Story of Sigmund Freud & Carl Jung, is a fascinating new take on the professional relationship that changed the world: Sigmund Freud and his younger friend and protégé Carl Jung shone a light on the inner workings of the mind. Using actual letters written by these two titans, Mr. Wydro has crafted a series of scenes that delve into the dynamics of their personal lives with some surprising results.
Secrets opens with the five cast members speaking directly to the audience in rhyming couplets a poem about looking into a mirror, creating the dreamy mood that permeates the show. Sigmund Freud (John Michalski) is the leading psychiatric practitioner and theorist of the late 19th and early 20th century. He is courted by many including Sandor Ferenczi (Demetri Bonaros), who acts as Freud’s intellectual guardian, and the up-and-coming Carl Jung (Cooper Grodin) who makes frequent visits to Freud in Vienna to discuss his patients, particularly the colorfully unstable Toni Wolff (Anita Anthonj). Jung’s long-suffering wife Emma (Natalia Volkodaeva) is the quiet center of Jung’s emotional life which begins to unravel as he is overcome by Toni’s charismatic personality. Jung, at first a devoted acolyte of Freud, slowly develops his own theories, eventually parting ways with his friend.
In a series of intimate conversations—in Freud’s office, hiking in the Alps—Freud becomes a father figure for Jung. There are intimations of sexual abuse in both their childhoods and even a few moments of possible sexual feelings between them, but gradually their differences pull them apart. Freud is over-organized and over-prepared in his life, while Jung prefers a more emotional approach, inspired by his free-spirited client Toni. Emma, meanwhile, inspires Jung to cultivate his ideas of the “collective unconscious.” The first act ends with Jung and Emma dancing a tense waltz while the second act opens with Jung and Toni dancing to a jazzy piece of music, painting a clear picture of the contrasting nature of these two relationships which shaped Jung’s life.
Secrets proceeds at a leisurely pace with little driving it but the disclosures of each of the characters. Ferenczi is ever protective of Freud, never quite trusting Jung’s motivations. Emma is long suffering, but a great helpmate. Toni Wolff is the brilliantly crazy creature who drives Jung crazy. And, Freud is staid and unchangeable, barely reacting to the attitudes of others. At the end, the characters again face the audience, repeat the poem and then recite what happened to each one of them, all of which is, unfortunately, more fascinating than Mr. Wydro’s play, however skillfully and interestingly written it is.
Ms. Anthonj is a tad anachronistic in her general demeanor, but conveys the buoyantly energetic personality of Toni. As Ferenczi, Mr. Bonaros does the best he can with an underwritten role, creating just an idea of a bright man in service to his god. Ms. Volkodaeva has a loveliness that belies the inner turmoil of Emma. Mr. Grodin isn’t sufficiently persuasive as a deep thinker. He looks too much like a leading man with a great face and figure. As Freud, Mr. Michalski created the most rounded personality with all the inner turmoil and conflicts just flickering in his eyes.
Zhanna Gurvich’s set suggests the period adequately as do Jennifer Raskopf’s elaborate costumes.
Mr. Wydro directed his text with attention to detail, but not enough energy. It is a good, untold story and a different twist on these well-known characters, but needs more drive.
Secrets: The Untold Story of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (running in repertory from February 8th - March 10th, 2013)
Marvell Rep at the TBG Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 (OvationTix) or at visit http://www.marvellrep.org