The Source for Media Coverage of The Arts in Miami.
Articles, reviews, previews and features on dance and music performances and events.
Sign Up
No one logged in. Log in

Famed Sex Therapist Gets the Stage To Herself in ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’


Photo: Anne O’Sullivan as Dr. Ruth; Rudy Meyers Photography
Written by: Christine Dolen
Article Rating

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice.

Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hundreds of thousands out of their sexual pickles. Nonetheless, her life story proves that one need not be tall to become mighty.

Mark St. Germain’s solo show “Becoming Dr. Ruth” has just opened GableStage’s 20th season at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. A touring production of the play featuring its Off-Broadway star visited the Parker Playhouse in 2014, and GableStage performer Anne O’Sullivan has played the role elsewhere, but this is director Joseph Adler’s fresh take on a remarkable woman’s life.

O’Sullivan is taller, slimmer and younger than the real Dr. Ruth, who will celebrate her 90th birthday in June (and who is expected at two GableStage performances this week). The actor’s speaking voice is different from Dr. Ruth’s instantly recognizable one, with its strong German accent, but O’Sullivan’s approximation works.

Over the course of the 95-minute play, set in 1997, Dr. Ruth is busily preparing to move from the three-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights where she raised her children Miriam and Joel, became famous and shared 36 happy years with her third husband, Manfred Westheimer.

Her beloved “Fred” has just passed away, and the kids are worried about their mother’s abrupt decision to leave her longtime home behind. But Dr. Ruth is nothing if not strong-willed, and she’s certainly not too swamped to regale us, her theatergoing visitors, with a life story not nearly as sunny as her demeanor.

The only child of an Orthodox Jewish couple, young Karola escaped the Nazis at age 10 when her mother sent her from Germany to a group home in Switzerland as part of the Kindertransport program. Life there had its share of cruelty as well as young love, but Karola was spared her family’s fate: All perished in the Holocaust.

Emigrating to Palestine at 17, she began using her middle name Ruth, lived on a kibbutz, had sex for the first time and became a sniper in the Zionist paramilitary Haganah. After being severely wounded during the Israeli War of Independence, she emigrated first to Paris, then to New York, where she studied sociology and education, taught at a number of colleges and universities, then turned a 15-minute late-night radio show into a brand.

As she roams around Lyle Baskin’s attractive apartment set, which is not nearly as cluttered as Dr. Ruth says it is, O’Sullivan must do the usual juggling that a solo show requires.

You know the phone will ring repeatedly, as her narrative is interrupted by short chats with the guy she calls her “minister of communications,” with a mover who has a sexual query he’d like to discuss without the other guys around, with her concerned kids and with a stranger who seemingly has ties to Dr. Ruth’s past. As she packs photos and reminisces, larger versions of them are projected onto a screen above the apartment, so we see images of everyone from her lost family to former president Bill Clinton.

Matt Corey’s music and soundscape are vital in deepening the show’s drama and emotional palette. Jeff Quinn’s lighting helps O’Sullivan journey from present to past and back again, and Ellis Tillman’s costume makes the actor look more like the woman she’s portraying. Beth Fath’s props, from the books of an academic to a collection of turtles reflecting a precious memory, speak silently of Dr. Ruth’s life.

Understand, “Becoming Dr. Ruth” is by no stretch of the imagination a great solo show on the order of “The Belle of Amherst,” “I Am My Own Wife,” “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” or any number of other one-person plays a drama lover might cite. St. Germain’s writing and his focus on Dr. Ruth’s amiability soften some of the script’s potential impact.

Nonetheless, O’Sullivan and Adler deliver an engaging portrait of a woman who survived a shattered childhood to find joy in work, family and her bold embrace of sex as her special area of expertise.

‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’ by Mark St. Germain, GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 24 (additional 2 p.m. matinees Dec. 16 and Dec. 23). Cost:$42-$60 (students $15 Thursday and Sunday evenings); 305-445-1119 or www.gablestage.org.

 


Leave a comment...
Must be Logged in
No one logged in. Log in
Leave a comment...
Was this helpful?
No Very

Captcha Image

About The writer

{module_webapps,16730,i,{tag_writer_id}}

Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami has been on a trajectory best described as meteoric. In its first 18 months DDTM has been a 2017 Knight Challenge Grant recipient and now will debut at New Y..

Amirah Sackett came up as a dancer in Chicago’s hip hop scene at a time when women were rare in the mostly male community. But she also visibly stood out as a Muslim. She keeps her hair cover..

Inside the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, where Dance Now! Miami is in residence, there is a hub of activity as the company prepares for its performance on Saturday night of Contemporanea 201..

One of the signatures of the National Water Dance project since its inception seven years ago was that dance troupes, large or small, professional or school groups, were free to perform whate..

Miami City Ballet is in league with Russians – in a good way -- and this promises to make a selection of dances look great again. The company’s final program this season brings back Apollo an..

Hidden behind a busy street in North Miami Beach is the Ancient Spanish Monastery, where Dance Now! Miami will bring the past into the present – and back into the past. Ekphrasis describes th..

Sometimes dance seems as easy as walking down the street. John Heginbotham, founder and artistic director of Dance Heginbotham, describes his dancers as moving in an unaffected, natural manne..

On the heels of a year-plus parade of #MeToo confessions, celebrity shamings and women’s marches, comes Marisa Alma Nick’s female-power-packed “A Rebel in Venus.” “It wasn’t planned that ..

Choreographers are usually curious people. Augusto Soledade’s curiosity leads him in many directions, including ideas on Madonna, voguing, and selfies. It all began with “thoughts on identity..

M. John Richard has never hung back from the challenges that shape a life. Not when a knee injury ended his dreams of playing football at Syracuse University. Not when he was persuad..

For many choreographers, a new project is an opportunity to dig into fresh ideas. But for local choreographer Pioneer Winter, his latest work “Reprise” returns to the same terrain he has been..

There are few shortcuts for anyone hoping to make it in ballet, but for black dancers that road has always been particularly arduous. A lack of access to training, scant rewards, and cultura..

For sheer pageantry, there are few dance companies that can rival the Ballet Nacional de España. In its 40th season, with 40 dancers and 11 musicians, Spain’s effusive, no-holds-barred love l..

When the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater returns to town this week, Miami native son Jamar Roberts will take center stage. As one of the company’s star dancers, he has long shined as a performer. B..

He says his dance comes from his dreams. French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi’s most recent work, “What the Day Owes the Night” combines Sufi rhythms with cutting edge b-boy moves, class..

A world premiere always comes with a drum roll. And, throughout the years, Miami City Ballet has brought to light its fair share of resounding new works. Still, Brian Brooks’ freshly-minted O..

Wednesday night at the Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall the South Florida Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance company presented “Appalachian Spring Suite” and “The R..

Cooking may be Dan Froot’s favorite thing. This is saying a lot since Froot is also a composer, a dancer, a sax-player, a play-wright, an oral-historian -- an all-around performance artist an..

With the closing of Tigertail Productions last year, Miami lost one of its preeminent artistic champions. Under the direction of founder Mary Luft, Tigertail brought an endless parade of boundary-..

Anytime would be a good time to devote a dance program to the works of Jerome Robbins, our most versatile and celebrated American-born choreographer. But, given that 2018 marks the centennial..

Due to winter storms in the Northeast impacting travel, with great regrets the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company announced the cancellation of the Saturday, Jan. 6 performance. At age..

It is fitting at this time of the year that our thoughts often turn to what connects us not what divides us. Whether we are driven by religious or secular motives, many of us are in the spiri..

The end of the 19th century was a golden age for ballet. In 15 years of collaboration, two great Russian geniuses – choreographer Marius Petipa, and composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky – produced ballet st..

Here’s a riddle – name the 1892 box office flop panned by critics for lack of seriousness and for casting too many kids, which has now transformed into a force of nature timed to occur yearly..

It happens every year, right around Thanksgiving, productions of the Nutcracker pop up from coast to coast, marking the start of the holiday season. But on Saturday, Miami audiences have the ..

As Art Week approaches, Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick’s Alma Dance Theater is getting ready to add its distinctive voice, rehearsing for the upcoming performance of “Flowers” at the C..

Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an att..

Ira Sullivan has been a musician for a long time. His father, part of a large musical family, was in the restaurant business. But he played trumpet for fun and stored his horn behind the couch, Su..

The music of Thelonious Monk has been a source of endless fascination and with good reason. Monk’s universe has its own laws. Beautifully constructed and quirky, soulful but also paced by br..

The first time the Amernet performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” during Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter -- the string quartet played in darkness. Just hours before, cellist Jas..

Drummer Dafnis Prieto and pianist Omar Sosa closed this year’s Global Cuba Fest at the Light Box in Wynwood, Miami, with shows on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 that suggested a sort of mus..

Mention flamenco and the immediate associations are with dancing, singing and the guitar. The piano has a rather tentative history in flamenco. While some scholars include the instrument in p..

The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming comes to Miami this Friday, with Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally, getting ..

It’s not by chance that the music of Cuban drummer, composer, educator and bandleader Dafnis Prieto unfolds with such purpose. An accidental immigrant in 1999 — he was living with ..

In the music of Las Cafeteras and Orkesta Mendoza, presented by Fundarte at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Saturday, the border is no place for walls but rather, a moveable feast. ..

Performance Hall at New World Center was packed Saturday, Feb. 3 for the New Work program, which NWS conductor and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas introduced as “one of the more adve..

Por dos noches consecutivas, el Miami City Ballet (MCB), que dirige Lourdes López desde 2012, abrió las puertas de sus instalaciones en Miami Beach para ofrecer un encuentro Open Barre con e..