Tuesday, July 16, 2024

New play Freud on Cocaine offers insight into today’s pain epidemic

Future Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning* playwright Howard Skora hits another home run with his latest production Freud on Cocaine, playing through early November at the Los Angeles area’s Whitefire Theatre.

Skora manages to find laughter and absurdity in this true tale of when Freud publicly supported the use of cocaine as a non-addictive medical treatment that would take away all pains with no side effects (unless mixed with heroin).

This story is so relevant today as it shows how big pharmaceutical companies can buy endorsements, which is shown here when the company Merck offered Freud endless, free supply provided he keeps telling people it’s good for them!

Out writer Skora’s story is able to mix that truth in with some comedic scenes even though addiction and death is happening around them.  His direction is also tight, utilizing the minimal sets and stage of the Whitefire and adding some great video effects from John Knowles.

Even the worst of actors can’t ruin a Skora play. But fortunately, the cast is top-notch lead by Jonathan Slavin as Freud, who goes over the top when necessary and reigns it in when directed. Slavin also adds a touch of flamboyance to the character. Not knowing if that’s true, it’s still a joy to watch especially in scenes where Barry Brisco seduces him into coke sales for his pharma company.
He is also well supported by every actor on stage.

Sara Maraffino runs the gamut of emotions as Martha Freud, who gets wrapped up in their coke world but at some point takes charge of her own life and health  — and hopefully gets Sigmund off the drug as well.

Aaron LaPlante as his best friend Dr. Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow is a hoot as his best friend and fellow researcher who unfortunately has the most severe reactions to the drug. It’s a great acting job when a character is dying and yet still makes the audience laugh.
Amy Smallman-Winston is quite the scene stealer as Emma, a Freud patient, who seems to adhere to any suggestion he gives her, even if it sounds outrageous and ends up with tragic results.

Do note the * in the first sentence. Skora has yet to win a Tony or a Pulitzer but his brilliance, humor and ability to mix humanity with sad situations is what great theatre is made of and at some time others will take notice and give him the high accolades he deserves.

Until then, seek out his work now at http://www.freudoncocaine.com.

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Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, www.reelkev.com and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for Examiner.com and contributes to progressivepulse.com as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 157 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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