Entertainment » Theatre

The Diary of Anne Frank

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Apr 9, 2019
A scene from "The Diary of Anne Frank"
A scene from "The Diary of Anne Frank"  

The horrors of the Holocaust are revisited in Arctic Playhouse's powerful new production of "The Diary of Anne Frank."

In their script first performed in 1955, playwrights Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett have captured a slice of Anne's life, using her own words and recollections.

Isabelle Assaf is Anne, a Jewish teenager hiding with her family from the Nazis during World War Two. The Franks, along with the Van Daans, take refuge in the Amsterdam home of Miep Gies (Madison Frances Weinhoffer).

They are soon joined by Alfred Dussel (Jeff Blanchette), a dentist who shares a room with Anne and is perpetually irritated by the girl.

We first see the Franks emerging from an entrance in the wall of the attic they will call home for more than a year and a half. In a voiceover, Anne explains the family's plight. Forced out of their home and wearing yellow stars on their clothing, they are not safe in the streets.

Anne's father lays out the rules: No talking or noise of any kind. No trash is to be thrown out. No one leaves the house. No one looks out the windows, which are covered. If anyone gets sick, forget about calling a doctor.

Anne is a good-natured and free-spirited girl who wants to live an ordinary life. She develops a crush on the Van Daan's teenage son Peter (Jonah Copolelli).

Anne fears for the lives of the friends who were taken away to the death camps. She has nightmares and wakes up crying. To cope with her boredom, she chronicles her feelings in a diary.

Director Rachel Hanauer has generated strong performances from her cast, especially Assaf, who expertly conveys Anne's initial naiveté and innocence as well as her feelings of emotional distance from her mother. Eventually she realizes the magnitude of the destruction around her. It's a deeply textured portrayal.

Bob Mignarri and Katherine Kimmel are also memorable as the bickering Van Daans. It's heartbreaking to see their marriage being destroyed by the grim existence they have been dealing with. Mignarri effectively shows the inner torment of a man who is no longer able to provide for his family.

As Anne's father Otto, Christopher Ferreira delivers a spellbinding closing monologue describing what happened to his family after they were sent to the concentration camps. It's a portrait of complete emotional devastation which is perfectly executed.

We also see how people can band together when their lives are threatened by pure evil. The Franks and the Van Daans are thrown together under seemingly unbearable conditions. They are able to find a little bit of joy when they celebrate Hanukkah, complete with gifts from Anne.

Anne wanted to be a writer and hoped her words would outlive her. It's a small comfort to know that although millions of people were senselessly murdered, Anne's bittersweet memories remain with us.

This version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" will remain embedded in your memories long after the cast has taken their bows.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" runs through April 20. The Arctic Playhouse. 117 Washington Street, West Warwick. For tickets, visit www.thearcticplayhouse.com

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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