For 36 years, a world famous personality has lived in the same Washington Heights apartment. But now she is moving, and you are invited to watch. Typically, when friends and relatives solicit help with packing, you’re likely to find better excuses like getting the dog groomed or scheduling an appointment with your periodontist. Yet there are exceptions to the rule, and this spitfire makes a strong case for clearing your calendar and dropping in on her cluttered stash of cardboard boxes and knickknacks. Don’t worry, you won’t have to pack any dishes or lift any heavy objects. Instead you can sit back, relax, and be mesmerized by a true story of humility and chutzpah, vulnerability and ultimate victory. It is a tale told by Karola Siegel, known to the world as sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Debra Jo Rupp, most recognizable for her role as Kitty Forman on TV’s That 70s show is the perfect embodiment of the petite powerhouse in the new Off Broadway solo play “Becoming Dr. Ruth”. In one hundred swift, intermission-less minutes, Rupp holds the audience in the palm of her hands and sheds a whole new light on a beloved figure that, until now, has mainly been viewed only as a seasoned maven of sexual matters.
Without divulging too many of the intimate details, Westheimer has suffered some of life’s darkest atrocities. She has confronted the fragility and eventual dissolve of two marriages. As a single parent, she found employment at a job which would inspire her to pursue higher education and later mold her to into the famous “Dr. Ruth”.
Mark St. Germain’s script is generally tight and frames Westheimer’s story in a unique fashion. Many of the items left in the apartment serve to trigger memories, which propel the story in a simple, but effective manner. At times the writing teeters on the brink of over-sentimentality, but this is easily overlooked by the incredible depth and human quality shared by this fascinating woman, Solo shows may well be one the most difficult feats to accomplish in the theater, but Rupp handles it with boundless energy and confidence. It is my hope that voters from various awards organizations (Drama League, OBIE, etc.) will take notice. “Becoming Dr. Ruth” in a nutshell, is excellent.
“Becoming Dr. Ruth” now at the Westside Theatre 407 W. 43rd Street (between 9th and 10th ave.) For tickets: 212-239-6200, online at www.telecharge.com, or at the box office.