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The examined life has always been intriguing subject matter. Sure, we can regard Dr. Ruth Westheimer as an icon in the sex therapy field now, but how did she obtain such a station in life? What trials and tribulations did she have to endure to become who she is today? All is explained in The New Jewish Theatre's inspired production of Becoming Dr. Ruth.

 

Dr. Ruth's life is astonishing to watch unfold. She escaped the holocaust, served as a sniper in Jerusalem, lost the ability to walk for several months due to a bombing, moved to Paris to study psychology, immigrated to the US, took a job at Planned Parenthood which then led to her ground breaking radio show in which she talked frankly and openly about sex. While those may be the major points, the devil is in the details.

 

The production of Becoming Dr. Ruth uses the “meta-theater” technique where the actor acknowledges the audience and converses with them openly. Susie Wall, who stars as Dr. Ruth, does an astonishing job in bringing the story to life. While she had several of Dr. Ruth's trademark mannerisms down pat, her performance felt organic, not imitated. She interacted with the audience with a familiarity that made it seem she was talking to old friends. Her delivery was sincere and respectful. Yes, there were a handful of moments when her phrasing was off, but overall her performance was powerful.

 

Equally impressive was Cristie Johnston in her role as Scenic Designer and Jenny Smith as Properties Design. The set of Dr. Ruth's Manhattan apartment was magnificent. A feast for the eyes; every nook and cranny was filled with eye catching props. I thoroughly enjoyed how an astute observer could place items on the stage in the stories that Dr. Ruth told. The skis over the entryway, the family photos, and the mementos Dr. Ruth shared all helped bring added texture to Dr. Ruth's stories.

 

The only aspect of the production that left me nonplussed was the audio visual props of the show. The computerized curtains seemed a bit campy and the audio portions used when Dr. Ruth did her radio show had some sound level issues. Neither of these aspects took away from the production overall, but I don't know if they delivered the intended impact.

 

To say the life of Dr. Ruth is inspirational is an understatement. Her life story is exhilarating. A true survivor in every sense of the word, Dr. Ruth is proof that you can overcome any adversity life may throw your way. One of my favorite Dr. Ruth quotes is “Our way is not soft grass, it's a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upward, forward, toward the sun.” In light of recent events, this quote takes special significance.

 

Obviously, this production earns a rating of “must see.” This production of Becoming Dr. Ruth is one of the most compelling and thoroughly enjoying plays I have seen in some time. Congratulations to The New Jewish Theatre for creating such a fascinating night of theater.

 

Becoming Dr. Ruth runs through December 21st. Please visit newjewishtheatre.org for show times and ticket prices.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @ReviewerJim

 

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