“Becoming Dr. Ruth” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – June 6, 2021


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

We all knew Dr. Ruth Westheimer and her witty jabs at common misconceptions about sex practices.  Bringing the sex therapist back to life is a challenge for any performer but The Phoenix Theatre Company found the perfect actor in Debra K. Stevens who crafts a remarkable portrait in “Becoming Dr. Ruth.”

After over a year without live theater where virtual and outdoor performances substituted for the real thing, “Becoming Dr. Ruth” marks the return of local live indoor theater.  The return is especially exciting because of Stevens’ fine performance.

Stevens crafts the perfect Dr. Ruth using the familiar and recognizable accent plus the performer’s short stature parallels the famous sex therapist’s physical look.  Playwright Mark St. Germain uses an interesting situation to allow Dr. Ruth to wax on about her growing up in Nazi Germany, her journey to the United States, and her training at the finest educational intuitions in this country to inform audiences of much basic information about Dr. Ruth that is not well known.

It is moving day as Dr. Ruth is about to leave a Manhattan apartment she has lived in for over 35 years with her third husband and the only man she truly loved.  Don’t worry, Dr. Ruth tells us about her first two marriages and why they didn’t work.  As she packs her clutter, the endless memorabilia allow her to travel back to tell us fascinating things about her upbringing, what led her to want to be a sex therapist, and why that field is so important to her.  Along with this fascinating background, tidbits of her radio and television sex tips are utilized to create some laughter and just how honest Dr. Ruth was.  So, while we are touched by her background we are also amused by the best of her familiar sex ditties and how best to enjoy those special intimate moments.

Stevens relishes every story nuance as she carefully crafts her remarkable portrait of Dr. Ruth.  Stevens is aided by Katie McFadzen’s energetic staging that keeps the show moving briskly and adds clever bits of business and subtle innuendos that further assist Stevens fine Dr. Ruth portrait.

“Becoming Dr. Ruth” is the perfect show to re-launch live theater after its long hiatus.  The show continues to June 27.  For tickets, contact The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A