Becoming Dr. Ruth -- More than Just a Sex Expert

By Karen Isaacs

TheaterWorks in Hartford is presenting a play that won raves last summer at the Barrington Stage Company. Becoming Dr. Ruth by talented playwright Mark St. Germain lets us hear the life story of Dr. Ruth Westheimer who shot to fame as a blunt speaking sex expert with her call in radio show.

One person shows come with built-in hurdles for both performer and playwright. How do explain talking to yourself for extended periods and revealing information that you already know well? Do you include interruptions?

St. Germain does a good job of dealing with both problems. Yes, there are a few phone call interruptions but not so many as to seem annoying. But the bigger problem, how do you justify the revelations, he solves easily -- he simply has Dr. Ruth acknowledge that the audience is there - and makes no big deal of it.

For those of us who only know Dr. Ruth as the petite grandmotherly sex expert with a middle European accent, we will not only learn a lot about this indomitable woman but also marvel at her resilience. During the course of the play, we learn about her three marriages, her privileged life in Frankfurt, Germany before Hitler, spending years as an orphan in Switzerland (it wasn't pleasant) -- emigrating to Palestine and becoming a sniper, her journey to America and so much more.

Debra Jo Rupp captures Dr. Ruth almost perfectly. The accent is on target, and she is petit though not as petite as Dr. Ruth who is well under 5 feet tall.

Becoming Dr. Ruth at TheaterWorks in Hartford is a funny and touching look at a remarkable survivor. It has already been extended to July 14.

This review aired on WNHU, 88.7 and www.wnhu.net


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