This is an endearingly wonderful and “emotion stirring” play. It will take you back to your own “growing pains” at age 12, time and time again. We enjoy every moment of Ruthie’s search for acceptance! Beautifully written with a feast of “food for thought” by Barbara Nell Beery, it is billed as a memory play. The playwright’s program notes state in part “…the period of time when a young girl crystallizes a distinct sense of self, which she can then lose in the socialization process of adolescence…”
Poignantly and beautifully directed by Susan Morgenstern, the quartet of actors fare well! As the play opens (on a most appealing set by Jeff Rack) we meet Ruthie. Now in her 30s… a wife, mother, and teacher, she takes us back to her insecure pre-pubescent years as a lonely and unpopular young Jewish girl… struggling with more questions than answers. In a poignantly multi-layered and triumphant portrayal, Claire Partin plays both the adult and the young Ruthie in turns. Bravo! Ruthie feels invisible in junior high, overshadowed by her critical 15 year old brother, Ronnie. A popular school baseball hero, he doesn’t want to be seen with his studious “wallflower” kid sister. As Ronnie, Nick McDow gives a spirited and cocky performance. With her father away on business (selling ladies “undies”) most of Ruthie’s conversations/ concerns are discussed with her mother. A richly rewarding portrayal by Constance Mellors offers some of the play’s finest moments, as the dutiful wife/mother who considers her family as her entire reason for living. Finally, while quietly eating her lunch alone, as usual, Ruthie makes a new friend! New student Loretta, a goofy, freakishly tall Texas transplant doesn’t know a soul here. They instantly form a bond and become inseparable. As the sweet but kooky Loretta with family problems, Heather Keller is a hilariously ditzy delight! The two lonely girls are thrilled to have each others’ constant company, and plan to try out for the school talent show. Sadly, soon something happens that strains the bond of their friendship.
Ruthie’s passionate quest for acceptance in those difficult formative years is a sweet, funny, and relatable story… sure to stir up your own private memories along the way. Reality, confusion, “fitting in” and loss of innocence are tough lessons to digest. Try to see this one!
REVIEW - WillCall.com
Everybody who is now or has ever been the parent of a pre-teen, the sibling of one and of course, a pre-teen him or herself, will absolutely love this play. It's about that pre-real life period when one hates everything, including oneself, wants desperately to fit in, yet be an original.
Ruth Shapiro (Claire Partin), now a grown woman, takes us back to the late sixties when she was a twelve year old in junior high, in Los Angeles. She comes from a family that's Jewish "lite", that is, they don't go to temple nor celebrate Jewish holidays but they know who they are. Dad is a traveling salesman always on the road and her stay at home mom Nadine (Constance Mellors), is of a time when being a housewife was considered a full-time job. Big brother Ronnie (Nick McDow}, by sheer willpower, has become a star athlete, just so he can earns the respect and admiration of his peers. Our heroine Ruthie, is brainy but awkward, unpopular and lonely. She manages to hook up with another misfit Loretta (Heather Keller), a recent transplant from Dallas, who has a twangy Texas drawl and is extremely gangly and tall, in the hope of becoming each other's BFF.
The cast's acting is so natural and unforced, you almost forget that you;re watching people on stage. Partin, as a girl at the awkward age, is letter perfect, as she encounters her first taste of disappointment and prejudice. Teenage McDow is rebellious and resentful and considers his sister an embarrassment to his social life. Thanks to the much awarded playwright's skill, the excellent Constance Mellors is portrayed as a wise, cAring and sympathetic mom, not the stereotypical, overbearing, Jewish mother. The performance prize, however, must go to Keller, who possesses both comic and dramatic talent to spare and is adroitly cast as the ditzy Loretta. The always reliable Jeff G. Rack is responsible for the workable set, which, thanks to lighting by Yancy Dunham and sound by Matt Hoffman, glides from porch to school yard to Ruthie's bedroom without the interruption of pauses for set changes. Susan Morgenstern directs this delightful production with the utmost empathy and it should be seen by every theatre lover near or freeway far.
REVIEW - SoCal.com
Theatre West of Hollywood presents Barbara Nell Beery’s The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro to complete their 2009-2010 season. The playwright describes the play as taking patrons on a journey that “touches on our deepest themes of life: desire, betrayal, regret, and most important of all, loss of innocence” as a 30-something Ruth reflects back on her life as a 12-year-old girl and “the me before the walls went up.”
Director Susan Morgenstern has done a wonderful job of bringing Barbara Nell Beery’s play to life along with set designer Jeff Rack’s creative multi-location stage design. Actor Claire Partin, a graduate of Northwestern University and stand-up comedian, gave a heart-felt performance as soul-searching Ruth Shapiro on a quest to discover where she lost herself along the way to adulthood. Actor Heather Keller, graduate of Hofstra University and winner of the “Best Performance Award 48 Hour Film Festival”, livened up the stage with her animated performance as Ruthie’s bubbly best friend Loretta. Actor and Theatre West member since 1984 Connie Mellors gave a dynamic and thoughtful performance at Ruth’s mother – a contented home maker who has long since forgotten her own dreams. Add to the mix Ruth’s baseball pitching older brother Ronnie play by Nick McDow and the audience finds themselves remembering their own preteen days full of bullies, peer pressure and difficult social situations.
What one walks away with after experiencing The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro is this sense of self-acceptance and a deeper understanding of the extreme challenges we all faced during our preteen years. The play offers something for everyone to identify with and is at times an almost therapeutic theatrical experience.
ABOUT THE PLAY
The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro. 1967. A time of innocence. A time of confidences. Ruth Shapiro needs to go back to that time to remember her truest self ... the openhearted and adventuresome Ruthie ... “The me before the walls went up” ... Can she find herself? Can she be that girl again?
Set in 1960’s and 1990's Los Angeles, The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro is a poignant and funny memory play told in flashback by Ruth, a mother and school teacher now in her late 30s. She has a son in junior high. “I tell him these are the best years of his life. I lie. Like my mother did. That should be enough to set the scene.”
Ruthie is 12 years old at George Washington Junior High, unpopular, lonely, and lacking a religious identity. Her 15-year-old brother, Ronnie, is athletic and popular, and doesn’t want to be seen with her. Ruthie finally makes a friend, Loretta, a not too bright misfit whose parents have just split up. Ronnie doesn't approve of Loretta. Nor does Ruth’s mother, Nadine who is determined that nothing gets in the way of her daughter's academic future. But Ruthie and Loretta become close ... until one day something happens to present a serious challenge to the bonds of their friendship.
Award winning playwright Barbara Nell Beery describes her amusing and touching narrative this way: “In this reflection about those challenging preteen years, our adult heroine is on a mission----to uncover the 12-year-old girl she used to be and rediscover her authentic self. With her mother and brother as guides as well as an unlikely friend----a gawky, hilarious too-tall girl from Texas----Ruth’s journey touches on our deepest themes in life: desire, betrayal, regret, and most important of all, loss of innocence.”
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