Tovah Feldshuh had the Becoming Dr. Ruth audience standing and cheering. This play, written by Mark St. Germain, and directed brilliantly by Scott Schwartz, was produced at the Bay Street Theater, in association with North Coast Repertory Theatre. Becoming Dr. Ruth was a wonderful vehicle to bring live, on stage theater, in front of an actual audience, back to Bay Street. Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street’s Executive Director, beamed as she stood in front of the opening night audience with Artistic Director Scott Schwartz and welcomed everyone back. Then the lights dimmed, and the magic happened. It will be an 8-week run, ending on Sunday, June 27.
Tovah Feldshuh is a force of nature in the theater world. She has played both Golda Meir and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in award-winning solo productions. She used all of her talents and skills to fine-tune her transformation into Dr. Ruth. Feldshuh’s movements, gestures, and wonderful clear but accented speaking voice put Dr. Ruth right on the Bay Street stage. The fully masked audience loved the performance with belly laughs that rang through the building when Feldshuh delivered the masterful one-liners St. Germain placed throughout the show.
The show also handled very serious material as Feldshuh, as Dr. Ruth, explained the horror of watching her dad be taken from their home by the Nazi SS to go to a concentration camp and never to be seen by her again. Being sent to a facility in Switzerland for German Jewish refugee girls at an early age saved her life, but also separated her from her family forever. This part of the production was powerful, informative, and most important. It is a story that must be told over and over again, and never forgotten.
Becoming Dr. Ruth, however, is more a show about the will to succeed and the power of positive thinking, along with the gift of some good luck, too. This show is important to see not because of what Dr. Ruth became, but because of the many layered stories of how she did succeed.
Director Schwartz created a flow and tone that made the 90-minute, no intermission show flow quickly with energy that at its end brought the audience as one to their feet to cheer. The cheers were of course for Tovah Feldshuh’s performance, but perhaps were also for the pure joy of finally seeing live theater on the Bay Street stage.
The safety protocols included proof of vaccination, having one’s temperature taken upon arrival, wearing a mask at all times and safely spaced seating. The audience was limited to 84.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer was born Karola Ruth Siegel in Germany on June 4, 1928. The production’s Opening Night was actually just the day after her birthday. She was in the audience and presented with a huge birthday cake on the stage as the audience ate up the sight of both Tovah and Dr. Ruth wearing the exact same outfit!
The nuts and bolts of the production were handled by Scenic and Props Designer Andrew Diaz. Lighting Design was handled by Bay Street tech wizard Mike Billings. Projection Designer Mike Brian Staton and Sound Designer Bryant deserve kudos as well. Same goes for Stage Manager Kelsy Durkim, Costume Designer Meghan O’Beirne and Production Stage Manager Christine Catti.
Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.