Virtual Theater Review: BECOMING DR. RUTH (starring Tovah Feldshuh from North Coast Rep in San Diego)

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by Tony Frankel on June 18, 2021

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional,Virtual


Talk about becoming a hit. Playwright Mark St. Germain (Camping with Henry and Tom, Freud’s Last Session) has done it again. He loves to take us into the lives of renowned true-life personalities, offering us biographical insights into the development of their thinking and way of being, from The Collyer Brothers to Einstein, Edison, Ford and C.S. Lewis. Often, his works can lack a dramatic arc, leaving us with only the play’s weighty issues. Never short on fascinating facts and tidbits, his plays ultimately inspire on some level, but his latest endeavor, Becoming Dr. Ruth, is I think his most successful in the genre, for many reasons, including but not limited to the current production filmed and streaming from North Coast Rep starring the great Tovah Feldshuh.

The central lure here is the inimitable, indomitable, indefatigable, irresistible Dr. Ruth Westheimer herself, whose adorable matriarchism seems completely at odds with her graphic therapeutic advice on sex. As a tiny, plucky, puckish female with a German/Yiddish accent, she comes off as one who would offer a second helping of brisket, not talk about a bris. But this uber-popular writer and radio and TV personality is more than a psychosexual therapist, given her fascinating history prior to becoming “Dr. Ruth,” America’s most famous advisor on all things sex.

Her history should be discovered by watching the enchanting 90-minute one-woman show, but know that Karola Ruth Siegel has a past involving Nazis, scouting, and sniping that defies the playful positivity of this pundit on penis. Feldshuh captures her eccentricities, gesticulations, fearlessness, and fortitude with uncalculated confidence and coolness. She truly inhabits the character versus merely imitating her. It’s a shame that the context here is the usual solo show trope in which celebrities invite the audience into their living rooms for an intimate meeting, but this delightful, uplifting production, smoothly and lovingly directed by David Ellenstein on Marty Burnett’s exquisite set, is a winner, unobtrusively filmed and edited by Aaron Rumley.

Now back to figuring out how to spice up sex in my marriage.

Becoming Dr. Ruth
North Coast Rep in Solana Beach, CA (north San Diego)
streaming through July 11, 2021
for tickets ($35 — $54), visit North Coast Rep

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