The Doctor Is In as Dolores Hydock Tackles Ruth Westheimer at Terrific New Theatre
review by Alec Harvey, The Birmingham News, May 29, 2015|
It would be easy to say that having Dolores Hydock star in "Becoming Dr. Ruth: An Unexpected Journey" is the next best thing to having the diminutive Dr. Westheimer herself in the role.
Easy, and maybe wrong. Because it just may be that having Hydock perform the one-woman show at Terrific New Theatre is even better.
For one thing, she's a fine actress, and though Westheimer lived what we see in "Becoming Dr. Ruth," Hydock is able to wring drama and humor out of the piece that Dr. Ruth might not be able to do.
For another thing, we get bonus material, with Hydock breaking the fourth wall to introduce the piece with a charming story about what she did on a dare leading up to starring in the show.
Set in Westheimer's New York apartment the evening before a big move, "Becoming Dr. Ruth" is a revealing 90 minutes from playwright Mark St. Germain. There's much more to the quick-witted, grandmotherly therapist than meets the eye.
Surrounded by family photos and other mementos that she has packed – Ben Boyer's effective set is probably the most cluttered Hydock has acted upon – we hear tales of Westheimer's family, her three marriages and the events leading up to her becoming a celebrity.
Some of it is tough to hear, but nearly all of it is charming, even more so when in the hands of Hydock and director Carl Stewart, who have had such success together on stage before. The duo has collaborated on several one-woman shows, some written by Hydock, some written by others, but all hitting their marks.
"Becoming Dr. Ruth" has to be one of the most difficult in some ways, because Hydock is having to recreate someone who the audience not only knows and adores already, but who is still alive. (In fact, Westheimer is coming to Birmingham to see a performance of the TNT show.).
But never fear. Hydock slips into the character easily, and within minutes of the show starting, she has become Dr. Ruth. The unexpected journey that follows is just icing on the cake.