Cleveland Play House’s production of ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’ is a perfect climax
When we think of the name “Dr. Ruth” we immediately associate her with sex...and with good reason. For over 40 years she has been America’s sex therapist, talk show host (her show “Sexually Speaking” has been on both radio and television), author (45 books), college graduate (two degrees), professor, late night talk show host favorite and confessor. This we all know, but what about the woman herself? Not many people are aware of her early years.
Born in Germany in 1928 to Jewish parents, she was a holocaust survivor having been sent to Switzerland as part of the Kindertransport just prior to World War II never to see her parents or beloved grandmother again. After the war she immigrated to British controlled Palestine where she lived in a kibbutz and joined the paramilitary organization Haganah and was trained as a sniper.
On her birthday in 1948 she was seriously wounded in a motor attack nearly loosing both of her feet. Two years later she moved to Paris, France where she studied psychology at the Sorbonne. She made her way to America in 1956 and while working as a maid put herself through graduate school earning an M.A. degree in sociology. In 1970 at the age of 42 she earned her doctorate (Doctor of Education).
In 1980 she began her broadcasting career with a fifteen minute call-in show that eventually became the top rated show in her area as its time slot was expanded. This led to a television show, “The Dr. Ruth Show” which by 1985 attracted two million viewers a week. On top of all that she was a single mother with two children (son Joel and daughter Miriam) and has been married three times.
One of the attractions of her shows was her personality. She was well known for giving serious sexual advice while at the same time being candid, warm, cheerful, funny and respectful. As my wife put it, “You could hear her smile when listening to her on the radio.”
With a powerhouse personality such as this it would take a small miracle to come up with a show that reflects the individuality of this 4’ 7” tiny tornado of frank sexual knowledge. Cleveland Play House has done just that. Naomi Jacobson stars as Dr. Ruth Westheimer in the stage production of “Becoming Dr. Ruth.” This show captures the essence of this sparkling personality.
It is the day before moving day as Dr. Ruth is busy fending off phone calls as her “guests” (the audience) looks on. The stage is packed with hundreds of boxes piled up to the rafters. As she takes time between phone calls to tell us of her life and accomplishments various boxes are opened up to reveal small doll house type rooms, books, photos, games and other items with important links to her past.
From the very first lines you fall in love with Dr. Ruth as she makes you feel welcomed, invited and relaxed. Hers is a wonderfully full life that is rich with stories. There is also the gymnastics as she clambers and climbs over the mountains of white packing boxes as she searches for a prop to illustrate a certain point in her story.
This show is nearly perfect in its presentation with Naomi Jacobson as Dr. Ruth. One minute you will find yourself laughing, the next minute crying. It is simply that great of a show. It is the purest art of entertainment that you will find on stage and is a delight to the mind and soul. Do not miss this show.
The Cleveland Play House production of Theater J’s “Becoming Dr. Ruth” will be on stage in the Outcalt Theatre at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland, Ohio through April 23, 2023. For more information and to order tickets go to https://www.clevelandplayhouse.com/ or call (216) 241-6000.