Barrington Stage, Pittsfield, MA
through July 21, 2012
by Jarice Hanson
The world premiere of "Dr. Ruth, All the Way," tells the life story of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the pioneer sex educator known to many from her books, radio and television appearances. Through playwright Mark St. Germain’s chronological script, we learn that Dr. Ruth’s public persona is the result of a most extraordinary life. Born in Germany, Karola Ruth Siegel was sent to Switzerland on the Kinder transport at 10. At age 16 she worked on a Kibbutz in Palestine and was trained to be an Israeli freedom fighter sniper. Eventually, she came to New York, where she began studying at the New School. Her story is peppered with self-deprecating wit, visual projections that help the audience relate to her family, and the choices history forced upon her.
Debra Jo Rupp turns in an outstanding tour-de-force in this one-woman show, engaging the audience as new friends, conscious of the theatrical setting and the dramatic tensions of the story. Her accent, a combination of Dr. Ruth’s own, identifiable cadences marked by the influences of English as her fourth language, is flawless. The actress' energy and command of the material should have future audiences leaping to their feet after each performance. An actress small in physical stature, she is not as tiny as the 4’7” Dr. Ruth, but the set, costumes, and wig are all of a scale to emphasize the Dr. Ruth’s own life force, and Rupp’s sweet, expressive face communicates the joy, the heartache of loss, and love of husband, children, and grandchildren.
Under the skilled direction of Julianne Boyd, and Rupp’s outstanding characterization of Dr. Ruth, we are reminded that to truly live and be loved, one can’t fear change, but see life as a journey of discovery.