Vista theater presents ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’

Vista theater presents ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’
Robin LaValley stars in the one-woman show “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” centered on the life of 1980s icon and "sexpert" Dr. Ruth Westheimer. The show runs through Feb. 3 at Vista’s Broadway Theater. Photo courtesy Broadway Theater

At some point, everything comes back in style.

Take Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a popular 1980s icon who gave her opinions and advice about sex. She is once again in vogue thanks to the new play “Becoming Dr. Ruth.”

North County residents can see the show, which opens Jan. 17 and runs through Feb. 3, at Vista’s The Broadway Theater. 

According to the theater: “Everyone knows Dr. Ruth Westheimer from her career as a pioneering radio and television sex therapist. Few, however, know the incredible journey that preceded it. From fleeing the Nazis in the Kindertransport and joining the Haganah in Jerusalem as a sniper, to her struggle to succeed as a single mother newly-arrived in America …  ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’ is filled with the humor, honesty, and life-affirming spirit of Karola Ruth Siegel, the girl who became ‘Dr. Ruth.’” 

The show appeared Off Broadway and had a successful run ending in 2014. According to Robin LaValley, who is performing in the one-woman show as Dr. Ruth, this is the San Diego premiere.

“I was approached by the producers Randall Hickman and Doug Davis to portray this character,” she said. “I had performed in several plays and musicals for their production company previously and they talked me into it. It was easy after reading the script to want to introduce a Dr. Ruth we had not seen before to audiences. As a character actress, you are always looking for that character that allows you to use all your abilities to the fullest and this piece requires comedy timing, accent, strong emotions to convey Ruth Westheimer’s amazing journey in life.”

While it may be her first time playing the sexpert and doing a one-woman show, it isn’t LaValley’s first acting gig by a long shot. Raised in Covina she has a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts from Cal Poly University, Pomona, and has performed in Summer Stock at North Shore Music Theater with Hal Linden. She’s also performed with Chita Rivera in “Kiss Me Kate” and Bonnie Franklin in “Sugar.”  

“I’ve performed in several shows with the American Theater Alliance at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I also married fellow actor Terry Jackson during the tour,” she said.

LaValley has appeared at many local venues including Birdcage Theater at Knotts Berry Farm, San Gabriel Civic Light Opera, Downey Civic Light Opera, Globe Theater Los Angeles, Glendale Center Theater, Welk Resort Theater Escondido and the Broadway Vista Playhouse. 

She’s even been on TV in several popular shows including “Dif’rent Strokes,” “Mr. Belvedere” and as a comedian on ABC’s “Make Me Laugh.”  

“I am an original member of The LA Connection Improv Comedy Troupe, Hollywood where I performed, as well as taught improv,” she said.

LaValley said she’s excited to play Dr. Ruth in the play and thinks it’s a show worth seeing for a lot of reasons.

“Why should people want to see ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth?’” she asked. “I can tell you why I would want to see it. We rarely get a glimpse of the real lives of many celebrities who have lived extraordinary lives but have never mentioned it to the world. Dr. Ruth went from being an orphan refugee to a student, wife, mother, professor, celebrity. People need to see and hear about this amazing journey. And this show reminds all of us to never turn your back on evil and to speak up.”

When asked if the real Dr. Ruth saw the show Off Broadway, LaValley said yes, many times and even gave question/answer sessions after the show when she was available.  

“She was fascinated by the fact that the star of the show, writer, producers were not Jewish, yet she felt they embraced the Jewish spirit of the piece wonderfully,” LaValley said.

LaValley said while she’s never met Dr. Ruth in person, given the chance she would ask her about how it feels to reinvent yourself over and over as a survivor and remain positive and upbeat. 

 “And, of course, I would try to get a one-on-one therapy session with Dr. Ruth,” she said. “Who wouldn’t!” 

Tickets for Vista’s The Broadway Theater plays are $25. Shows are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Call for tickets at (760) 806-7905 or order online.

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