Dr. Ruth is a vibrant personality. Her voice has been heard by millions, and her story is told around the world. It can be difficult to confine this to one stage. But the Music Theater of Connecticut has taken on this gigantic task by hosting “Becoming Dr. Ruth”, a 90 minute, one-woman piece detailing the life of the infamous sex therapist with a larger-than-life disposition.
Actress Amy Griffin is cast as the 4’7” woman, and with a large wig, she was able to look the part. But it is daunting to portray not only a celebrity who is still alive today, but one with a persona that is difficult to match. Her accent can be easily overdone. Her wit needs to be delivered just right to come off as a wistful, elderly woman. Otherwise, she may come off as bitter.
Griffin does this wonderfully. Her accent, though strong, is not delivered in a mocking fashion, nor does it sound disingenuous. Her laughter is contagious. And her tiny stature matches the real 4’7” Dr. Ruth. She is dynamite in a small package.
But the show isn’t all about exploring the sexual conquests and hilarious stories within Dr. Ruth’s life. While viewers may expect this play to be comedic and matching the energy she held in her radio show, it has its incredibly serious and melancholy moments. Much of this play explores her early childhood — including how she survived the Holocaust as a German Jew. Throughout her monologue, the audience marvels at her resilience. She is the essence of what it means to fulfill the “American Dream”.
And though it wasn’t entirely viewable while watching the show on Zoom, the set design was possibly the best part of the show. The setting is Dr. Ruth’s apartment, filled to the brim with boxes and books. The most stunning part is the yellow walls decorated with dozens of photos. All of them are real photos from Ruth’s life. As she talks about her life, the audience can see her grow up on the wall.
It is refreshing to see a live performance again, and MTC’s trend of keeping it socially distanced by hosting one-person shows promise that lights will never dim on the stage, even in the middle of a pandemic.