Award-winning actor Linda Kash takes on renowned sex therapist Ruth Westheimer in the one-woman show Becoming Dr. Ruth,the latest offering from the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company.
Prior to her career as a sex therapist, Westheimer, then Karola Ruth Siegel, fled Germany in the Kindertransport, then became a sniper in Israel’s War of Independence, before landing on America’s shores, where she raised her family as a single mother.
Kash, who many may remember as the angel in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese TV commercials, has done one-woman shows before but never one like this.
“She’s such an iconic character with such a specific sound and impact. The more work I do on her, the more I admire her, and I just can’t believe I get to play this role.”
“I have had life-altering experiences in my life and I try to keep positive,” said Kash, who lost her husband, Paul Sullivan, in a car crash. “But this woman has been through the most intense history at such an early age and she continues to move forward and to be brave.”
Although Kash can do a spot-on impersonation of Westheimer, she plans to focus more on Dr. Ruth’s spirit.
Kash had the pleasure of meeting her last year in Toronto at a Holocaust remembrance conference, and was able to go backstage and inform Dr. Ruth about her upcoming portrayal.
Kash said she feels audiences will appreciate the 91-year-old’s fearlessness to speak her mind.
“She is a four foot seven, matronly cutie-pie and that allows her to talk on pretty specific sexual matters and she gets away with it because of how she presents herself,” explains Kash. “That’s part of her success. She feels safe to talk about sex, she’s non-threatening and she knows that about herself. She is very smart. There is fearlessness in her work and fearlessness in her life, and that, I think,… the audience may be surprised about, because not everyone knows what she went through at such an early age.”
In the play, Kash talks to the audience almost immediately, creating a wonderful bond that makes her feel like she is not alone on the stage, which makes it more fun for her. Adding to the production are photos taken with people in Dr. Ruth’s life, presented in a magical way. As tragic as her early life was, her sense of humour to this day serves her well.
Kash was born to the entertainment world. Her late parents were conductor Eugene Kash and international opera singer Maureen Forrester. Her brother Daniel is also a well-respected thespian.
Before the cream cheese commercial that made her familiar, Kash’s career began at the Second City Theatre in Toronto. She’s appeared in and directed a number of plays, films and television shows throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, Russia and New Zealand.
She was a series regular in The Comedy Mill and Max Glick, and had guest appearances on Seinfeld, Third Rock From the Sun, Cybill, Everybody Loves Raymond, Ellen and Sabrina. Her film credits include Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, Cinderella Man and Man of the Year.
More recently, she worked on Ken Finkleman’s new CBC series, Hotel Metropolitan, CBC’s Hatching, Matching & Dispatching, and the pilot “Sex Life” for HBO.
Written by Mark St. Germain and directed by HGJTC’s co-artistic director, David Eisner, Becoming Dr. Ruth runs from April 30-May 16 at the Greenwin Theatre, Toronto Centre for the Arts. For more information, visit hgjewishtheatre.com.