BWW Review: BECOMING DR. RUTH at JCC CenterStage Theatre
It wouldn't be odd to presume that a one-woman show about America's most famous sex therapist would be mostly about...well, sex. While sex and the role it plays in our lives is certainly a part of the story, Becoming Dr. Ruth, currently playing at JCC's CenterStage, is much deeper than that. It examines history, religion, family, love, loss, intimacy, and the many forces that shaped the life and career of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the German-born, Jewish immigrant who survived the Holocaust and went on to become a pop culture icon, media personality, and author.
Becoming Dr. Ruth features Karin Bowersock as the title-and ONLY-character of the show. During its roughly 1 hour 30 minute runtime (presented without intermission), Bowersock tells stories from Dr. Ruth's past as she packs up her apartment to move in 1997. Pictures and childhood keepsakes trigger memories and stories that Ruth shares with the audience, spanning from her early childhood years that were largely spent in a Swiss orphanage (where her parents sent her to spare her from the horrors of the Holocaust), through serving as a sniper in the Palestinian army, broken marriages, failed career pursuits, and finally realizing her calling as someone who could help and heal people through advice and guidance about sex. Dr. Ruth makes us realize how silly it is to treat sex as a taboo subject, something to be ashamed and embarrassed about.
Karin Bowersock is utterly captivating in her all-encompassing portrayal of Dr. Ruth, breaking down the fourth wall and talking to the audience as if they are sitting in her living room. Becoming Dr. Ruth is essentially a 90 minute monologue, and Bowersock travels through it effortlessly, weaving each story together with wit, humor, and visceral emotion. A special nod to Scenic Designer David Daniels, whose set is sparse, but exactly what is needed.
Through powerful storytelling and masterful writing by playwright Mark St. Germain, Dr. Ruth shows us that sex is empowering and necessary, something that acts as a constant throughout the many chapters of our lives, and that Dr. Ruth is one of the great feminists, educators, and pop culture figures of our time.