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

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

Love in Bloom

On a stage at the Westside Theatre, located at 407 West 43rd Street, the house lights dim and the stage lights brighten, a young girl with a shaggy blonde cut and pink nightie is sprawled unconscious across the bed, the oven door is open and “What the World Needs Now Is Love” is skipping on a record player.  If not for the intervention of a geeky Good Samaritan, the young girl would be a goner.  Sounds like a scene from Promises, Promises, right?  But it is actually the opening scene of the hilarious revival of Cactus FlowerCactus Flower debuted at the Royal Theatre on December 8, 1965 with Lauren Bacall, Barry Nelson, Brenda Vaccaro and Burt Brinckerhoff completing the original cast.  After a close to three year run, the show closed and in 1969, it was adapted into a film starring Ingrid Berman, Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn.  There is no question of the show’s success as Vaccaro and Brinckerhoff were nominated for Tony Awards and Hawn won an Oscar, but the question that lingers for me is was this farce about love written by Abe Burrows or Puck?  Cleary Burrows took inspiration from those misguided lovers from Athens and like A Midsummer Night’s Dream this romantic comedy is just as zany and genius as the Shakespeare classic. 

Cactus Flower grows around the love lives, and in a certain case lack thereof, of Dr. Julian Winston, Toni Simmons and Stephanie Dickinson.  Julian is a good looking, middle-aged Park Avenue dentist and one hell of a ladies’ man.  He claims to love Toni, a bright-eyed hopeless romantic that is in love with Julian despite the fact that he has told her that he is married with three kids.  What makes this idyllic young girl love the dentist is his honesty about his ball and chains, but what she doesn’t know is that his wife and kids are figments of his imagination – an embellished cover to protect his liaisons.  After Igor, the young, geeky writer next door, saves Toni from certain doom, Julian decides to marry her.  But there is a problem, his wife and kids.  Toni demands to meet his wife to ensure that she also consents to the divorce.  Enter Stephanie, Julian’s old maid secretary.  Last time she had a good time Eisenhower probably was in office.  Her thorny, abrasive demeanor and efficiency in taking care of Julian mask her love for the good denstist.  Julian, after much convincing, enlists Stephanie to help him in his web of lies, and the rollercoaster of laughs start from there.  While keeping up his façade, thus keeping Toni in the dark , Julian winds up falling for Stephanie and Toni realizes that Igor is the man for her. 

This revival of Cactus Flower tickles the funny bone and blossoms with stellar performances.   Maxwell Caulfield may be best known for being Sandy’s cousin in Grease 2 and for his stint on Dynasty and The Colby’s, but as the philandering Dr. Julian, Caulfield is both deceitfully charming and amusing.  Jenni Barber as Toni is probably the most delightful scatterbrain I have ever seen.   Throughout the play her dizziness can drive you to want to jump on stage and shake until she finally displays a modicum of sense, but her immature quest to find perfection in love is admirable.  Barber’s portrayl of the idealistic, young Toni is infectious.  The character of Stephanie is the true star of the story.  She is the cactus flower, prickly and barren that eventually bursts with femininity and sensuality.  Lois Robbins simply flourishes as Stephanie Dickinson.  She is witty, venerable at times and funny all the time.  Stephanie may be the personification of a cactus flower, but Robbins is no shrinking violet.  Her performance is as sweet as a rose.  Jeremy Bobb is droll is the Igor Sullivan, the writer from next door.  He knows his position and plays it well.  The definite scene stealers in this production are John Herrera, Anthony Reimer and Robin Skye.  Their portrayals as Señor Arturo Sanchez, Harvey Greenfield and Mrs. Durant are thigh-slapping, laugh-out-loud humorous.  Anna Louizos received a Tony nomination for her set designs for In the Heights and High Fidelity.   She creates another stunning visual setting to accompany a great cast of actors and direction from Michael Bush.  Although the changes throughout the scenes were not seamless, it in no way diminished the authenticity of the show nor pulled the audience out of the fantasy.  Cactus Flower’s new run will end at the Westside Theatre on May 29.  I assure you, a desert plant has never been so entertaining.  Cactus Flower provides a great 60s soundtrack, lively performances and smiles that will keep growing for days. 

Photos courtesy of O&M Co.

The Art Of A Great Bamboozle


This season the essence of C.S. Lewis is alive and well on stage.  One incarnation of the atheist turned Christian apologist, novelist, lay theologian and academic was in the form of the man himself in Freud’s Last Session, a drama depicting a fictional meeting between Lewis and Sigmund Freud.  The other appears in an adaptation of The Screwtape Letters, one of his most popular works, by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts.  The book, published in 1942, is a series of letters authored by Screwtape (a senior demon in the dominion of hell) to his nephew Wormwood (a junior tempter just recently sent into the world).  Screwtape’s annotations offer the young demon a guide on how to lead a man down the path of damnation towards “Our Father Below” (the Devil) and away from “The Enemy” (God).

Playing at the Westside Theatre, The Screwtape Letters is a 90-minute mental gobstopper.  As the play opens, His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape is addressing The Graduation Banquet at the Tempters College for Young Demons.   As the spirits of Hell feast on the numerous human souls they have swayed from “The Enemy,” Screwtape reminds the neophytes that although the substance of their supper does not have quite the same zing as true evil-doers like Hitler, there are plenty of humans willing to take the slow methodical road to the underworld by committing smaller sins.  His chilling speech is an eerie reminder of the phrase, “We are in the last days,” an expression my aunt would always say when adding her two cents about the news.  But it was not until I witnessed this scene that I realized the last days did not mean the 20th or 21st century, in fact, my aunt was referring to every day after the infamous apple bite.  Following the banquet scene, the rest of the production is carried out in Screwtape’s office, which is constructed of bones. 

Besides his scowling, transforming minion Toadpipe (played by Beckley Andrews), Screwtape is the only character that appears on stage.  Wormwood, “The Enemy”, “Our Father Below”, Slobgob, “The Patient” (The young man Wormwood is attempting to beguile) and “The Woman” (The Patient’s love interest) are all unseen characters that are vividly resurrected through Screwtape’s salacious soliloquy.   The Screwtape Letters is a timeless piece of work that needed to be reintroduced to the public more than ever before.  Indeed with the global economic state, constant threat of terrorism and conflict and the slow disintegration of man’s respect for nature and his fellow man, there is not one human being that can afford to miss this production.

Max McLean co-wrote and co-directed this adaptation and brings the letters to life in glorious fashion.  As Screwtape he is evil personified.  The disdain he exhibits for humans and God as well as the lusty pleasure he receives from devouring souls is completely convincing and compelling.  I was gobsmacked by the God smack that was delivered to my state of consciousness.    In fact, amusement is only one of the functions of this show, the other (and I believe chief) reason for this production is to present a thriving, thorough account of how man can be so easily led down the primrose path.  Screwtape, Wormwood and those who work for “The Enemy” are spirits, humans, as Screwtape puts it, are “amphibians—half spirit and half animal.”   It is the animal half he instructs Wormwood to target when tempting “The Patient’s” spirit.  He outlines how pride, religion, pleasure (a device created by God) can be viable tools for manipulation.  He details how prayer can cause immediate action by “The Enemy” and a demon’s best time to strike is during quiet times of reflection.  But the most significant disclosure Screwtape shares with his nephew is the law of Undulation which is, “the repeated return to a level from which they (humans) repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.”  The satirical commentary ends with Wormwood losing “The Patient” to “The Enemy” and becoming worm bait for Screwtape and Toadpipe.

Revelations 20:20 is an idiom I say when referring to the clarity that is gained by hindsight.  Watching The Screwtape Letters brought to life on stage offered more of a revelation than I ever anticipated.  The audience learns that every transgression counts.   In the end, all of Screwtape’s devices to entice us with vices leads to one well-known (but often forgotten) conclusion, the Devil and his sycophants are liars whose misdirection is the most direct passageway to becoming tasty morsels at Hell’s buffet.  Hats off to Max McLean for reminding us that we are all soldiers in the war for our souls, The Screwtape Letters ends its New York run on January 9, FAMERS make sure this show is the only trip to Hades you ever take.


The Memory of Fashion

The pair of jeans I wore when I went roller skating and met the worst mistake of my life…the black suit that I have worn to every funeral since I was 25…the denim jumper I wore when I got my ears pierced at the age of 12…the navy blue straight leg silk pants with embroidered baby’s breath flowers I wore on my first overnight date with the man that taught me what true love really meant… all articles of clothing cloaked in memories.  It is true that women cling to the clothing they wore as events fill the chapters in the books of our lives, after all what’s a story without the accessories that give it vivid detail.  This notion is brilliantly and hilariously explored in the off-Broadway production of Love, Loss and What I Wore playing at The Westside Theatre.


Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron

Based on the best-selling book by Ilene Beckerman (and adapted for the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron) Love, Loss and What I Wore is a collection of stories performed by an all-star rotating cast that has included Rhea Perlman, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson and Tracee Ellis Ross.  Each cast performs in four week intervals.  The March cast stars Didi Conn, Fran Drescher, Jayne Houdyshell, Carol Kane and Natasha Lyonne. The play starts and ends with Gingy’s Story with other narratives woven in between.  The cast, dressed in black, sit and deliver the monologues. The set is a tapestry of dresses changing in color. 

March Cast

The play covers the full gamut of emotions from a fashionable perspective.  At times I was bursting with laughter and at others I found myself fending off the lump forming in my throat.  It even covers topics like the frenzy women experience when trying on outfits in the dressing room, the obsession with being fat or thin, the hell women put their feet through for a pair of sexy stilettos, all topics that drive women schizophrenic.   Other stories are more personal like Boots, an anecdote about neglect, even fashion icon Madonna was paid homage.

Beautiful, touching and filled with humor Love, Loss and What I Wore intimately tell tales that any woman can relate to and provide a little insight into a woman’s mind for the men sitting in the audience.  In fact, my greatest confirmation that this play is a must see was provided by the man that accompanied me.  This is a man that I thought had the inside track on women, but to my surprise he left the theater enlightened.  Mental note, the plum dress and limited edition patchwork Timberlands I wore when I helped a man from Mars learn more about the planet Venus.  A new memory has been created.

Photos:  Carol Rosegg courtesy of O&M Co.