Several Incarnations …One Life- Becoming Dr. Ruth

Holocaust survivor, sniper, sex therapist, author, mother of two, widow, grandmother of four all packed in 5-foot-4-inch frame, can anyone say #WOW?  While some sit and contemplate how to get one life going, Dr. Ruth has had several and at 87 this force of fierceness is still out and about every night.  Listen up Millennials, before there was a Carrie Bradshaw there was Dr. Ruth.  When she launched her radio show, “Sexually Speaking”, in 1980, the idea of a woman speaking so candidly about sex was still taboo. Dr. Ruth is a trailblazer, but what led her to become America’s favorite sex therapist?  That journey is poignantly explored in Becoming Dr. Ruth.

3.192955The one-woman production takes place in 1997 at Dr. Ruth’s apartment in Washington Heights.  Recently widowed, she is preparing to move and talking on the phone when she realizes she has company (the audience).  Dr. Ruth, colorfully played by Debra Jo Rupp, then breaks the fourth wall to lead the audience through a narrative of the events of her life before we came to know her.  Born Karola Ruth Siegel in Wiesenfeld, Germany, Dr. Ruth was forever separated from her family when her mother and grandmother decided to send her to Switzerland as part of the Kindertransport.  She details the harsh reality of living in that environment while still dealing with the issues of childhood.  At 17, she was a member of the Haganah in Jerusalem serving as a scout and sniper.  In 1950, Dr. Ruth moved to France studying and teaching psychology at the University of Paris.  In 1956, she immigrated to New York City, moving into the same apartment she inhabits today.  And if that wasn’t enough, she divorced two husbands, gave birth to a daughter, married her beloved Fred Westheimer, became a mother for the second time, earned a master’s degree in sociology and completed her-post doctoral work in human sexuality before the name Dr. Ruth became synonymous with sex. The play also chronicles what life was like after she became the most famous sex therapist of the 20th century.

Four-stars usually signify that a creative endeavor has achieved an A+ grade.  Well in my opinion, four stars don’t adequately display how wonderful this production is.  Becoming Dr. Ruth is triumphant – a soul-hooking display of the resiliency of the human spirit.  From the time Debra Jo Rupp acknowledges the audience until the lights dim, spectators are swept-up in a tale so epic Homer would be envious that he hadn’t written it.  The narrative is so engrossing that no other characters are necessary.  Dr. Ruth’s story makes for the quintessential one-woman show.

3.192957Playwright Mark St. Germain wrote my favorite play in 2010, Freud’s Last Session, and I believe he has done it again with Becoming Dr. Ruth.  To create a character in your head, infuse him/her with a dose of humanity and make him/her relatable to an audience isn’t an easy commission, but the best writers can make the transformation seem effortless.   What is even more difficult is converting a real person into a character. This is St. Germain’s genius.  He can translate a story, real or fiction, of historical figures that preserves their human quality without making them caricatures.   When St. Germain wrote the play, he knew he wanted Debra Jo Rupp to portray Dr. Ruth and he was so right.  Rupp’s performance is magnificent – she nails the amalgamation of Dr. Ruth’s German, Hebrew, French and English accent with the accuracy of a sharp shooter (pun intended).  To say she is a delight to watch is a gross understatement; her presence is its own spotlight.  She fills the stage warmth.

Becoming Dr. Ruth encompasses everything you want in a play – it tells a powerful story with candor, humor and sophistication.  It’s a brilliant artistic representation that mirrors a life that is equally as brilliant.   Many of us have followed Dr. Ruth’s advice, now take my advice…go to the Westside Theatre and see this play!

Photos: Carol Rosegg, Lanny Nagler

Lady Day Illuminates The Little Shubert Theatre

I always knew that Broadway was haunted. Apparitions of playwrights, producers, actors and famous characters skulk around theaters and are as eternal as the neon lights that electrify the Great White Way.  Each season we are revisited with the ghosts of productions past, but this fall two New York City theaters are being visited by the spirits of iconic vocalists past.  On Broadway, Janis Joplin and her musical influences rock The Lyceum Theatre from floor to roof, and Off-Broadway the music of one of her influences is receiving its day.   Lady Day, the musical about Billie Holiday, provides its audience with a stunning visual and aural lesson in tragedy and triumph.

hc-billie-holiday-20131023Anyone who has seen or read Lady Sings the Blues knows the calamitous story of Billie Holiday’s life.  Overflowing with agonizing memories, abusive men and addiction, the pain Holiday experienced habitually showed in various aspects of her life – most often in her music.  Her sound carried listeners through the valleys of the blues transforming agony into musical ecstasy.  You don’t just hear Billie Holliday…you feel Billie Holiday, and that essence is fabulously represented in this production.

Lady Day is an overwhelming emotional tribute to the legacy of Billie Holiday.  The musical takes place at a theater in London.  Billie Holiday and her band are playing the final leg of her European tour.  The first act consists of the rehearsal and the second act is the show.  Woven between 25 of Holliday’s most famous songs is the recounting of her troubled life.  Through music Billie tries to fight the demons haunting her in rehearsal, but winds up still fighting them during the show – something I suspect that happened repeatedly during her brief life.  As Billie exposes her scars, the audience bears witness to an unflinching portrait of pain, but it is how her hurt is translated into song that makes this production shine – each song helps to build the story.  Like Billie Holiday’s music, this production burrows underneath the skin and lingers in the pit of your gut.

lady_dayThe success of this musical is largely due to the performance of Grammy-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater.  She plays the role of Billie Holiday as if she is possessed and her voice is spot-on.  I have never heard anyone capture the timbre of Lady Day as she has.  Bridgewater is simply amazing; you won’t be able take your eyes off of her.  And you won’t soon forget Lady Day the musical.  All artists are tasked with the frightening aspect of revealing their souls to the scrutiny of the masses, but there is something in the way a jazz musician does it that is undeniably raw and palpable.  Billie Holiday’s voice was an instrument that could rival the bent notes and artistry of any of the jazz greats.  She was the voice of her time.  Her influence can still be heard in singers today.

A good story and good music will always yield promising results.  It is as simple as saying one plus one equals two.  At The Little Shubert Theatre, the life of Billie Holiday (which includes her music) and the brilliant showcasing of Holliday’s work (courtesy of Dee Bridgewater) make for compelling theater and two good reasons to see this show.

Photos: Carol Rosegg

Dirty Great Success

By Martin Burgess

FAMERS if you are up for some British action check out Dirty Great Love Story at 59E59 Theaters. It’s a clever, stripped down, well-delivered, simple play about Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna, whose relationship takes two years to develop into something serious after a one-night stand.

DGLS3webIt all begins when Richard and Katie meet for the first time in a nightclub; both happen to be at a bachelor and bachelorette party. In a drunken blur Richard and Katie wake up in a cheap hotel room the following morning.  He’s in to her, she’s not in to him and runs away trying to forget about the whole thing. The problem is…Richard’s friend Westie has hooked up with Katie’s friend CC, and the hilarity ensues as Richard and Katie keep bumping into each other at social events.

Here’s the twist; there are only two actors on stage, no set, no costumes, nada – just two chairs, mood lighting and some background music. If you’re worried about the fact that it’s British and you’re still traumatized by Shakespeare in high school, do not be, the language is very modern and easy to understand. The script is well written and the delivery is flawless. The dialogue weaves between spoken word and poetry, which really helps keep the play flowing smoothly.

Because the play is British there are lots of drinking references, which only leads to one thing, highly embarrassing moments. This new interpretation of the classic “boy meets girl” story is universal. Even hip hop fans should check it out; there is lots of good rhyming and call and response.

Pia Furtado directs this production and the play is written and acted out by Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna, who give an outstanding and unblemished performance. They have great chemistry between them and do a superb job of connecting to the audience and setting up the scenes.  Dirty Great Love Story is part of 59E59 Theaters’ Brits Off-Broadway Festival and will be playing a limited engagement until June 30.

Photos: Carol Rosegg



59E59 Theaters Gets Sailing With Brits Off Broadway and The Boat Factory

Yes, despite the miserable weather it is that time of year to catch some jolly ole productions from across the pond as Brits Off Broadway takes residency at 59E59 Theaters.  The Boat Factory is set in Belfast 1947 and centers on a 16-year old boy beginning an apprenticeship at Hartland & Wolffs’ Titanic Shipyard.  World War II is over but the ripple effects of the war are still fresh.  This production provides a powerful voice to everyday people struggling to make a living during the glory days of Belfast’s shipbuilding era.

The Boat Factory’s limited engagement run will end on Sunday, June 30. Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at For more information, visit

Old Jews Telling Jokes Top Off-Broadway Production for 2012


Laughter is the best medicine, so the famous theys say.  I would agree; laughing is my favorite activity.  And if Old Jews Telling Jokes was a gym, they would be Equinox.  Old Jews Telling Jokes works your funny bone, side bone and abs in the most hilarious way.  Laugh lines be warned: Off-Broadway has never been funnier.

To view F.A.M.E NYC Editor’s review of Old Jews Telling Jokes, click

Photo courtesy of Serino/Coyne

LOL! Ticket Giveaway

With the way this economy is going, we could all use some laughter. Wouldn’t you say? 

F.A.M.E NYC can supply you with two tickets for a night of laughter with Old Jews Telling Jokes if you can tell me, who was the New York comedian that insisted that he got “No Respect”.

Comment as much as you like.  Every comment increases your chances of winning. 

Contest ends on October 5th at midnight.  This is a quickie giveaway, so act fast!


Tickets courtesy of Serino Coyne.  To learn more about Serino Coyne visit,

To learn more about Old Jews Telling Jokes visit,

Gefilte What…Gefilte Who?

Hey FAMERS, how many of you have know what Gefilte Fish is?  If you don’t, don’t feel bad, seems most visitors in Times Square don’t know either.

Do you guys remember me telling you about a hilarious new Off-Broadway comedy titled Old Jew Telling Jokes?  Well, if you don’t this video below well serve as a reminder of some of the zaniness that is offered up on stage during the show.  Recently, OJTJ cast member Audrey Lynn Weston took to Times Square to test people’s knowledge about the delicacy and the responses are funny as H-E-Double hockey sticks!

Old Jew Telling Jokes is billed as the comedy that will make you laugh until you plotz, and I guarantee you will.   If you think that clip is funny, then you need to get yourself down to The Westside Theatre and get your laugh on. 

But if you keep checking out F.A.M.E NYC, you might just win some tickets for Old Jews Telling Jokes.

To learn more about Old Jews Telling Jokes, visit or check them out on Facebook,

Video courtesy of Serino Coyne

Make ‘Em Laugh


Ok, so what happens when three old Jews, one young Jew, a goyim and a pianist are on stage …some of the funniest live theater I ever witnessed that’s what.  Old Jews Telling Jokes is a 90-minute laugh fest that provides side-cracking chuckles from beginning to end and proves that laughter is not only the best medicine, it is also a great equalizer. 

The concept for the funniest show to open Off-Broadway this year started in 2009 with the launch of a web series titled Old Jews Telling Jokes.  The viral sensation was created by Sam Hoffman and produced by Eric Spiegelman and Tim Williams.  In 2010, Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman converted Old Jews Telling Jokes or OJTJ to paperback with the subtitle 5000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs.  Like the web series, the book is a treasure chest of jokes and humorous stores contributed by several Jewish funnymen and personalities.

This May, OJTJ makes it debut at the Westside Theatre and let me tell you, your face will hurt from laughter.  Old Jews Telling Jokes takes the old school jokes of Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Mort Saul, Myron Cohen and others who graced the stages of The Catskills’ “Borscht Belt” and entertained millions on television and around the world and gives them a new twist.  Humor has been a long standing tradition in Judaism, which dates back to the Torah; OJTJ creates an arc of the Jewish experience in America that begins with birth and childhood and ends with old age and death.  Along the way the themes of assimilation, sex before marriage and sex after marriage are also explored.  The production isn’t just the retelling of jokes; it also contains a few musical numbers which provide the opportunity for audience participation and poignant monologues that perfectly accentuate the importance of humor in the fabric of not only the Jewish experience, but the human experience. 

At the heart of Old Jews Telling Jokes is a sense of celebration.  The preservation and reinvention of these jokes are just as much about honoring Jewish conventions as the lighting of the menorah during Hanukkah.   For the Jewish members of the audience, the show is more like a family reunion; many of them are familiar with the material and sometimes finish the jokes before the actors can deliver the punch line.  For audience members who aren’t Jewish, especially any that may be from Gen Y, the show is just plain funny, and although the themes are skewed from a Jewish perspective, anyone can relate to subject of family or sex.    The actors include Marilyn Sokol, Todd Susman, Bill Army, Lenny Wolpe and Audrey Lynn Weston.  Each night they take on the task of what I can only describe as linguistic gymnastics, sticking punch lines and musical numbers which can be changed daily. But it’s because of this reason that the show will remain fresh to the actors and the audience.

From the internet – to the pages of a book – to an Off-Broadway stage, Old Jews Telling Jokes has been knockin’ them dead wherever they go, I suspect that the Westside Theatre won’t be any different.  The tagline is “You’ll laugh ‘til you plotz.”  I didn’t plotz, but I did feel like I was leaving 10 pounds lighter after the crunch session my abs suffered as a result from laughing so hard.  Old Jews Telling Jokes is a history lesson, a workout and a ball of laughs all rolled into one fantastic show.  Go see it…the joke will be on you if you don’t.

Check out these videos of creators and the cast of Old Jews Telling Jokes:

Photo and videos courtesy of Serino/Coyne

A Blizzard of Savings

Well, the weather outside isn’t so frightful.  But the savings are still delightful. The new Seasons of Savings booklet is out and offers discounts of up to 50% for shows, parking, hotels and attractions around the theater district.

Published twice of year, Seasons of Savings makes Broadway and Off-Broadway more accessible by providing amazing discounts to the hottest happenings in Times Square – the Superbowl is over, pick up a guide, run your fingers through a winter land of savings and warm up with a show.

To learn more or view the booklet, click

Downtown Theatre Goes Uptown With MANGELLA

Facebook profile updates…Twitter wars…LinkedIn networking…Skype avatars; all evidence of how the virtual world has integrated itself into the so-called “real world” to a degree that it is practically impossible to disconnect from it.  Such is the case for Ned, the protagonist for MANGELLA, a hilarious, touching multimedia production presented by Project:   Theater.

Ned is the scourge of the cyber world – a hacker terrorizing Asian gambling sites.  He and the love of his life Gabriella, his computer that acts more like a possessive girlfriend than a mainframe, spend their day extorting money through solicited network attacks, social networking, watching porn and playing an antiquated PC game.  Ned’s hacking pays for his isolated lifestyle as well as the drugs he uses on his father in an unorthodox treatment to try to evoke memories from his dementia-riddled brain, which is the result of multiple strokes.  But Ned’s father refuses to believe that his is anyone other than Mangella St. James a fictional black blues legend.  Ned’s cruel to be kind treatment of his father borders on insane – his father is the only living link left to his deceased mother whom he adored.  He straps his father down to a wheelchair with duct tape and forces him to watch old movies.   But one Flag Day, Ned has a surprise for his father and she is much more than either of them bargained for.

Lily, the hooker that shows up at Ned’s door to service his father, brings with her an air of mystery  that turns Ned’s whole world upside down. Like a glitch in the Matrix, she reveals to him that not everything is what it seems.  She allows him the opportunity for change – to start anew, but her tactics destroys Ned’s virtual existence, which yields tragic results for everyone.

Cheeky…thought-provoking…stylish, Ken Ferrigni penned a script that is ripe for the madness that is pop culture in the 21st century.  Director Joe Jung and scenic designers J.J. Bernard and did a masterful job bringing Ned’s reality to life.  The cast is equally entertaining.  Anthony Manna, who plays the role of Ned, is the epitome of a cyber geek, yet in his coldness, his yearning for love is palpable and heartbreaking.  Bob Austin McDonald portrayl of blues great Mangella is a real humdinger.  Ali Perlwitz is amazing as Gabriella and like Lily, Hannah Wilson stings. In fact, stole my interest from the very start. 

MANGELLA  is playing at the Drilling Company, located at 236 West 78th Street, for a limited engagement which has been extended to October 29.  I am used to going downtown to witness theatre such as MANGELLA, but I would gladly ride the one train uptown to see awesome experimental theatre like this.  If you’re looking for something deliciously macabre to watch this Halloween, I recommend MANGELLA.  It is Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino rolled into one.  You will not leave disappointed.

Photos:  Lee Wexler/ Images for Innovation