The Queen of “Good Sex” at B Street Theatre
by Colt McGraw
The 90-minute, one-woman show “Becoming Dr. Ruth” takes the audience on a journey through the early years of the world's most recognized sex therapist.
Dr. Ruth, as played by Anne O'Sullivan, is a woman of character and strength against all odds. Simply put, "A German Jew never cries," says Dr. Ruth.
Playwright Mark St. Germain approached Dr. Ruth about creating this play after reading her autobiography. To our great fortune, she agreed. The Off-Broadway production starred Debra Jo Rupp and closed in December of 2013 at the Westside Theater.
"Stop staring at each other's penises and work out more," is how Dr. Ruth once replied to a caller who had noticed other men’s penises were larger than his in the looker room. "Love your penis," she demands.
That was the blunt relationship Dr. Ruth insisted on having with her callers during the run of her highly successful, call-in radio talk show, “Ask Dr. Ruth”. The show became a cultural phenomenon and propelled Dr. Ruth to stardom.
There's a great distance between the bright lights of New York City and grim 1940's Germany. "We can't remember who we are, if we can't remember who we were," says Dr. Ruth.
Ruth’s father was taken from the family home by the Nazi’s, and she watched out the window as he was loaded in their truck and smiled back at her, as if to say that everything would be okay.
She was soon after separated from her mother and grandmother and taken to Switzerland as a refugee. There she worked in an orphanage until the war ended.
Though Dr. Ruth never saw or heard from her parents again, she would create a family of her own. She married 3 times and had 2 children.
While studying in Israel, as a young woman, she found herself admiring these little plants growing off the side of a building, out of cracks. She related to these plants. "We are survivors," she thought. As she stood there holding her little girl, she felt as if she were holding her entire family and her family to come in the future.
Ruth persisted and went on to study in Paris, and later sail to America. After only two weeks in New York City, Ruth received a university grant and went on to become a pioneer in sex therapy.
"No one should ever stop learning," her father would say. During her wedding ceremony to Fred, Ruth recalls being surrounded by her husband’s family and "looking through the crowd, looking for my father." She often dreams of being able to jump up and down and tell her father that she became a doctor.
O'Sullivan spent time with Dr. Ruth in New York a few years back. She was able to immerse herself in the energy that is Dr. Ruth. She picked up the body language, the charm and even the accent.
During O'Sullivan's 40-year acting career, she has performed in over 90 productions on stage, film and television. She said that the greatest sex advice that she received from Dr. Ruth is that communication is the most important thing. When you think of it, what Dr. Ruth says is true: "Sex is the reason we are all here."
If you can get a seat to one of the remaining performances that run through February 26th, I would highly recommend it. O'Sullivan becomes Dr. Ruth the moment she steps onto the stage.
You might even run into the real Dr. Ruth. O'Sullivan told me that Dr. Ruth shared that she'd love to come see the show. Wouldn't that be orgasmic?
For tickets, visit bstreettheatre.org.
Colt McGraw is a freelance writer in Sacramento, and frequent contributor to Outword. He can be reached at