[NoHo Arts District, CA] – The world premiere of Freud on Cocaine, written and directed by Howard Skora (Miserable with an Ocean View, Gaslight House), heads to the Whitefire Theatre September 8-November 4.
“Trust me, I’m a doctor.” The Whitefire Theatre presents an outrageous new comedy taken from Sigmund Freud’s own words as documented in his book, “Cocaine Papers.”
Jonathan Slavin (Home Front at the Victory Theatre, TV’s Santa Clarita Diet, Dr. Ken, Better Off Ted) stars in the title role as one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century, a respected doctor, a loving husband, a devoted father — and a drug addict.
Fact: Freud used up to a gram of cocaine daily for at least a decade. Fact: Freud touted cocaine as a panacea for pain, exhaustion, low spirits, depression and morphine addiction. Fact: Merck Pharmaceuticals (Barry Brisco as Emanuel Merck) offered Freud free “product” in exchange for his continued research into its medical use. Fact: Freud slipped cocaine into the love letters he mailed to his German finacée (played by Sara Maraffino), keeping their engagement secret from his future mother-in-law (Sigute Miller).
Fact: Freud convinced his fellow doctor and best friend, Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow (Aaron LaPlante), to use cocaine to control Ernst’s addiction to morphine after a painful accident. Fact: While treating patient Emma Eckstein (Amy Smallman–Winston) for the “nasogenital” cause of her hysteria, Freud and another doctor cauterized Eckstein’s nose with a gram of cocaine, nearly killing her after three surgeries. Fact: Freud on Cocaine is based on a collection of Freud’s writings that was edited by his daughter, Anna (Kim Hopkins).
“Everything in this play that appears insane is actually true,” says Skora. “The comedy comes out of looking at the past through the lens of the present. We see how even someone as brilliant as Freud was a slave to the science of his time. The data and studies he relied on were published by an American periodical called the “Therapeutic Gazette,” owned by George Davis — the same man who owned Parke-Davis, the largest manufacturer of cocaine at the time. Until his dying day, Freud insisted that cocaine was not addictive. What scientific beliefs do we hold today that might seem equally crazy in the future?”
“Skora uses the sharp scalpel of humor to delve into the darker issues,” says Whitefire producing artistic director Bryan Rasmusson. “He’s an extremely gifted writer of black comedy whose last three plays were all monster successes for the Whitefire.”
Freud on Cocaine is based on Freud’s “Cocaine Papers,” which contains his letters, notes, dreams and recollections on the therapeutic use of cocaine, some of which were published in 1884 under the title “Über Coca.”
The creative team includes scenic designer Dusti Cunningham, costume designer Michael Mullen, and video designer John Knowles.
A Los Angeles-based playwright, director and screenwriter, Skora’s first play, Miserable with an Ocean View, featured Oscar nominee Patty McCormack, received “recommended” reviews from Broadway World (“laugh-out-loud funny”) and Stage Raw (“wildly unorthodox”), was the recipient of a Valley Theatre Awards nomination for best play, and ran for five sold-out months. His second play, Damaged Furniture, was the top-rated original comedy on Los Angeles theater review aggregate site Better-Lemons for its entire run with a 100% “sweet” review rating. His most recent play, Gaslight House, which he also directed, premiered in 2022, once again receiving rave reviews; Stage Raw called it “unforgettable… witty banter and verbal comedy keep you laughing and enthralled throughout… this writer can’t recommend it enough.” Skora studied screenwriting at UCLA Extension, where he received the prestigious Diane Thomas Screenwriting Award for his screenplay, “The Trainer.” He was also the first-place winner of the fifth annual Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competitionm using the $10,000 prize money to complete his first independent feature-length documentary, Nick Name and The Normals, which premiered in London at the National Film Theatre. Skora develops most of his work with members of The Actor’s Gym, run by his longtime mentor, Oscar winner Bobby Moresco.
• Valet parking available at Augustine Wine Bar across Sunnyslope from the theater: $9
• Unrestricted parking available on Moorpark St. and on the west side of Dixie Canyon Ave.
• Metered parking on and just south of Ventura Blvd. (off on Sundays)
• 2-hour parking available in residential neighborhoods (Sunday matinees, until 6 p.m.)
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