The Phoenix Players present The Diary of Anne Frank, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s classic play based on the diaries that put a human face to the Holocaust.
Should you see it?
During the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, thirteen-year-old Anne Frank began keeping a diary just before her Jewish family went into hiding. She maintained this diary for two years, until the day they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. These diaries were adapted for the stage in 1955, and have remained a classic ever since. The Diary of Anne Frank shows the situation from Anne’s point of view, a lively and talkative typical teenager.
The Diary of Anne Frank is easy to relate to because Anne is just like any other teenager. She fights with her mom, she deals with crushes, she’s jealous of her older sister and everything else. Even though most of the audience presumably knows the story of Anne Frank, you get attached to the character, making the ending even more effective. However, in order to make this material really emotionally resonant, the actors need to be strong.
The Phoenix Players’ production features some great performances, especially from its young lead Marie-Pier Jean. She is believable as Anne from ages 13 to 15, playing a chatterbox hyperactive who simmers down a little bit as she matures but always retains her love of life. Her scenes with Bill Horsman, who plays her father, are very touching. She also has a great rapport with Vincent Scattolon’s Peter, who is perfect as the awkward teenage son of the Van Daans, the other family staying with the Franks. Vanessa Cook also does a great job with the often hysterical Mrs. Van Daan. The actors work very well as an ensemble, playing off each other and the cabin fever that comes with being confined to a single room for two years. Barbara Kobolak as Anne’s mother is particularly magnetic during her one explosive confrontation.
The set is a gorgeous and elaborate representation of their attic hiding spot designed by Annemarie Zeyl. Tim Picotte’s direction spreads the action all over the stage and into the various tiny rooms. Considering that the eight main actors remain on stage for most of the play, it’s wonderful to see that everyone seems committed to their roles.
The reality of the situation is emphasized using projections of Anne’s actual diary. However, an overly long introduction featuring projections related to Hitler’s progress across the Netherlands slows down the play a little before it even starts. Luckily, things pick up quickly as soon as all the Franks are introduced.
The Phoenix Players’ production of The Diary of Anne Frank features solid performances, an engrossing script and an emotionally resonant and timeless story. Overall, it was an enjoyable night of high-quality community theatre.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to hear what you think. Did you enjoy The Diary of Anne Frank? What were your favorite performances? Let me know in the comments below!
The Diary of Anne Frank runs until April 19th at the Gladstone Theatre. There will be an extra matinee show on the final day. April 13 features a talk-back session after the final curtain. For more information, check out our preview article.