BWW Review: BECOMING DR. RUTH at GableStage
Making Everyone Happy at GableStage...
...and that's exactly what Anne O'Sullivan is doing right now at Gable Stage as she, as Dr Ruth Westheimer, sex therapist, breaks the fourth wall, telling her memorable life story to the entranced audience.
The conceit, by author Mark St Germain, is that Dr Ruth is leaving her Washington Heights apartment after 36 years and as she takes books and memorabilia from the cluttered bookshelves each brings her life's tales to mind. She holds up photos and tells the stories, the photos enlarged on an upstage video screen. Three husbands, two children, a sigh, a smile, a joke and the past goes in the packing cartons.
Born in Germany in 1928, she lived through the Nazi years.
"Keep smiling" her father tells her as he is taken away by the Nazis. "Make everyone happy" says her grandmother as she is shipped off to Switzerland in the Kindertransport, ostensibly as a refugee in an orphanage but in reality a servant.
After the war she moved to Palestine, becoming, once again, at 17, a servant. Service with Haganah, the Jewish Freedom Fighters, followed and she was trained as a sniper. Caught in an explosion she suffered serious shrapnel wounds and could not walk for several months.
She later moved to Paris and then the U.S. in 1956. Her drive for an education is a constant theme as is her interest in human sexuality, culminating, in 1980, with her radio show Sexually Speaking. Fame was coming.
Dr Ruth is a celebrity sex therapist, remember, so there are little reminders of the fun things boys and girls, and other combinations, can do together. All in somewhat good taste. No snigger, snigger here. But laugh out loud when she shows her own board game: Dr Ruth's Game of Good Sex
Anne O'Sullivan's command of the material is remarkable. She has performed the show before and this familiarity, together with her diminutive stature and strong German/Jewish accent, gives credence to every word. Smile and laugh she does, through almost every minute of "Becoming Dr. Ruth" but in the poignant moments her sensitivity is extraordinary.
Photo credit: George Schiavone