by Lynn on May 6, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Greenwin Theatre, Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Mark St. Germain

Directed by David Eisner

Set by Yannik Larivée

Costume by Alex Amini

Lighting by Siobhán Sleath

Sound by Christopher Stanton

Cast: Linda Kash

A detailed look into the life of the dynamo known as Dr. Ruth (Westheimer) performed by the equally dynamic Linda Kash.

The Story. This is a story of resilience and tenacity. In 1997 Dr. Ruth Westheimer (Linda Kash)  is newly widowed from her third husband Fred and is packing up to move. She reminisces about her life from being born in Germany to loving parents; the coming of the Nazis and being sent to Switzerland when she was 10 for her protection; surviving the loneliness and desperation to know how her parents were; to becoming a freedom fighter and sniper in Israel; to studying psychology in France; emigrating to the US and finishing her education focusing on sex education; notoriety on the radio, the talk circuit; marrying three times, having two children and continuing at full speed it seems.

 The Performance. It’s moving day for Dr. Ruth (as she was known to one and all because Westheimer was too hard to pronounce for some). Yannik Larivée has designed a set full of packing boxes on top of each other for the move and mementos here and there to which Dr. Ruth will refer.

Linda Kash as Dr. Ruth scurries on smartly dressed (kudos to Alex Amini for the design) in comfortable shoes, stylish slacks and a vibrant blouse. She’s on the phone tending to details about the move. Linda Kash speaks in a clipped, clear voice with the familiar Dr. Ruth German accent. She speaks quickly but is not abrupt. And she’s smiling with every call, except the one in which she tells one of her children she won’t change her mind about moving. When Dr. Ruth ‘sees’ the audience, she blossoms. She has a whole group of us eager to hear her stories.

Much of Dr. Ruth’s life was full of sorrow, danger, uncertainty and endless adversity. She met all of it with that smile. Her grandmother told her always be cheerful, optimistic and trust in God. I can appreciate it; but constant cheerfulness is suspect it seems to me.

Director David Eisner has staged Becoming Dr. Ruth to within an inch of its life. He has

Linda Kash climbing up those levels of boxes to get something way up there to show us, then quickly climbs down only to flit to another part of the stage and climb up something there. At the time, Dr. Ruth would have been about 67 year old. Oy, what a workout that Eisner man is giving her and Kash does it all with grace, aplomb and that smile. The humour is delivered with a razor sharpness in timing, nuance and finesse. Both David Eisner as director and Linda Kash as star know the ins and outs of a funny moment. They also realize the poignancy in this long life filled with challenges that would defeat a lot of other people. But Dr. Ruth isn’t a lot of other people. As played by Linda Kash she’s a tenacious dynamo who not afraid of anything or anyone and when she talks about sex she’s glowing and it’s definitely not hot flashes.

Comment. Mark St. Germain does in Becoming Dr. Ruth what he did with his previous play, Freud’s Last Session, he has taken a real person, fashioned a situation and told their stories in a way that gives us the nuts and bolts details that sum up a life. With Becoming Dr. Ruth he has revealed the life of this seemingly unlikely expert on sex. This dandy production illuminates Dr. Ruth’s life further.

The Harold Green Jewish Theatre Presents:

Began: April 30, 2019.

Closes: May 16, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no interruptus.

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