Monday, February 22, 2016

theatre review - BECOMING DR. RUTH - Herberger Theater Center - February 17, 2016

Jane Ridley
Photo by Mark Garvin
Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 28th.

 "Dr. Ruth Westheimer became a household name in the 1980s due to her radio and TV shows in which she spoke frankly about sex...What many people didn't know, and some still don't, is that there was much more to the story as to how a young Jewish woman, who was born in 1928 Germany, grew up to become a famous sex expert. That story is the steady foundation of Becoming Dr. Ruth, Mark St. Germain's one woman show that has been performed in many cities across the U.S. the last few years. The charming and moving show is being presented at the Herberger Theatre Center in downtown Phoenix for a three-week run that ends on February 28th. The setting of the play is 1997 in Ruth's Washington Heights, New York, apartment. It's two months since her husband Fred passed away, and Ruth is packing up her apartment to move across town. Throughout the course of the play Westheimer will talk directly to the audience, as she says "it's much better than talking to myself," and receive phone calls from her son and daughter who question her decision to move so close after the death of her beloved husband. Over the 90-minute play we will also get the story of her life which details how she became the famous sex therapist. Westheimer's story is fascinating...St. Germain never seems to sugar-coat the struggles that Westheimer went through, and his dialogue squarely presents her as the warm and witty person we know from her many TV appearances.....However, there are a few hiccups in the play. For the first hour, almost every time the play brings up anything about the Holocaust or any very serious topic there are phone calls that Ruth receives or distractions that switch the focus...However, the end of the play does include a reflective moment about how impactful, and always present, the Holocaust is to her, which makes up for many of these earlier inconsistencies in tone. With the exception that she looks much younger than the age of 69 that Ruth is at the time of the play, Jane Ridley is lovely as Ruth. She has the famous accent down almost perfectly and infuses the character with the sense of passion and personality that made Ruth famous....In the play, Dr. Ruth mentions that the brain is the most important organ when it comes to sex. Becoming Dr. Ruth uses that same organ to make us laugh, connect, and most importantly "feel" for the amazing journey this woman took and the heartbreaking experiences she had that ultimately made her into the woman that she became."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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