After watching the excellent production of “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” at Manhattan’s West End Theatre, my first thought was that someone had handed playwright Mark St. Germain (creator of “Freud’s Last Session”) a gimme.
On the face of it, all Germain had to do was stick a microphone in front of the voluble sex therapist, transcribe her words, and there you have it: a play.
Because what a rich life she’s lived, filled with sadness and joy and the drama that makes great theater.
To his credit, Germain resisted the temptation to turn this into the burlesque it could easily have become. Nor does he dwell on the moments of pathos. Instead he does a delicate balancing act, effortlessly shifting between the ups and downs and taking the audience with him.
It’s the same approach smartly taken by star Debra Jo Rupp (“That ‘70s Show”), rrrrrolling her Rs, of course, German accent intact, but never reducing her role to a parody.
The play is set in 1997, a little more than two months after the unexpected death of Dr. Ruth’s third husband, Fred. She is cleaning out her Washington Heights apartment because, despite its spectacular views of the New Jersey Palisades across the Hudson River and of the George Washington and Tappen Zee Bridges, despite the objections of both her children, she feels she needs to move on.