Becoming Dr. Ruth – North Coast Repertory Theatre


Most folks in America know Dr. Ruth as a short, sharp sex therapist who encouraged us to ‘pleasure our partner.’ This one act, one actor, one set character study is a witty romp through the uncanny life of Ruth Westheimer.

Bouncing nimbly back and forth in time, Ruth recounts various formative moments in her life. She is ostensibly packing up to move, which gives various props a chance to prompt her memory. One moment she is describing the eeriness of being sent off via Kindertransport as a child to live in a safer region, learning to adjust. The next moment she is recounting some clever sexual advice she provided. She takes the occasional phone call, allowing her to riff on another point.

Dr. Ruth mentions once being a sniper in the Israeli military, which will come as a shock to many. But she never killed anyone, for which she is grateful.

Played admirably by six-time Tony and Emmy nominee Tovah Feldshuh, the production is a delight. Feldshuh inhabits the diminutive Dr. Ruth; in fact we first see her from the back, kneeling as if to brace us for her short height. Soon Feldshuh is striding back and forth, replaying moments of her life. Feldshuh captures Dr. Ruth’s infectious accent perfectly.

Directed by David Ellenstein with a deft touch, the pace ebbs and flows gracefully, but never flags.

Mark St. Germain (best known for Freud’s Last Session, a hit off-Broadway) penned the play.

A chance opportunity to discuss sexual matters on the radio provides Dr. Ruth with a platform to share her optimism and candor. Listenership grows, and soon syndication follows. A national audience results in appearances on evening talk shows, all fodder for her infectious demeanor.

Her early support of Planned Parenthood is mentioned, as is her first marriage.

This production would seem to be a sure bet for a producer looking to bring the production from North Coast Rep to the Big Apple.

Dr. Ruth will undoubtedly be beaming in the spotlight at the opening.

Ticket information available here. Extended through July 11.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.