The latest show at Ocean State Theatre Company is the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, "The Diary of Anne Frank". Through the diaries of 13 year old, Anne Frank, this play tells the story of a Jewish family forced into hiding in an effort to avoid Nazi persecution during World War II. Isolated from the outside world, her family and four others live in constant fear of being discovered. Anne evolves from a smart, mischievous youngster to a passionate young woman. She wrote of her daily life, her adolescent conflicts with her mother, her deep bond with her father and of her first love for Peter as well as her aspirations for the future and her continuing belief that people are really good at heart. They remained hidden for two years and one month, until their betrayal, which resulted in their deportation to Nazi concentration camps. After the war, the pages of Anne's diary were discovered on the floor of the annex where the family had been hiding. This moving true story is a testament to the human spirit.The humanity of this young girl's diary written almost 70 years ago still touches the soul of every audience member by making them empathize with her tragic situation. Director Amiee Turner takes us back to the cramped quarters where Anne spent the last years of her life and with her ten member cast, she creates a stunning dramatic production, making it a must see show of this spring season.
Amiee creates moments that shows the isolation of family members and how even best friends can't maintain relationships under trying circumstances within this claustrophobic atmosphere. The gorgeous two story annex set by Amanda Hall is stunning. The fantastic young actress who plays Anne Frank is 15 year old Olivia Gesualdi. She captures the exuberance of this young girl who grows into a woman. She keeps your attention from start to finish with her dynamic line delivery and acting prowess. Her relationship with the other cast members shine and her interactions with with them are standout moments in this show. Olivia makes Anne a real person. I last reviewed Olivia as Liesl in Sound of Music for Theatre Works last March. Mark S. Cartier plays her patient and loving father who was the only member of these eight people who survived the concentration camps. He does marvelous work during the show but it is the closing scene where he describes what happened to the others that will leave you in tears at his emotion charged line delivery long after curtain call. Her long suffering mother is played with great depth by Karen Kessler who is a topnotch dramatic and comic actress. Her scene where she catches Mr. Van Daan stealing bread is an explosive and electrifying moment due to her strong acting prowess. The bright older sister, Margo is well played by 18 year old Alexandra Fortin. Her standout scene is in the breadstealing scene, too. Both Karen and Alexandra have strong scenes with Olivia in this show.
Ethan Paulini and Elise Arsenault play Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, decent folk in ordinary life who come close to cracking in these circumstances when he sells her mink coat and he is caught stealing bread. Brian Roque is topnotch as the petulant sixteen year old Peter who at first dislikes Anne's bratty behavior but eventually grows to love her as he really gets to know her. He handles the transition from awkwardness into a more mature boy beautifully. His last scene with Olivia is a stand out moment in the show. Sarah Pierce does a great job as Miep who hides the Franks and the others in the annex. Her warmth and friendliness to these people shines through in her performance. Rudy Sanda does a terrific job as the sympathetic Mr. Kraler who helps Miep hide these folks and also deals with a blackmailer who threatens the family's freedom while Tommy Labanaris rounds out the cast as the fuss-budget dentist, Mr. Dussell. His reactions at rooming with Anne and to the Van Daan's unpleasant behavior gives some comic relief in the midst of these trying times. So for a splendid portrayal of this timeless script, be sure to catch "The Diary of Anne Franks" at Ocean State Theatre Company. It will definitely move you to tears at these gut wrenching performances.