Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Diary of Anne Frank"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"The Diary of Anne Frank"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The final show of URI's season is "The Diary of Anne Frank". It was originally written in 1955 by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and their script was adapted by Wendy Kessleman with new material in 1997 and the latter version is the URI presentation. The show is based on the book "Anne Frank:Diary of a Young Girl" which was first published in 1947. It is the story of a 13 year old Jewish girl named Anne Frank who wrote of her experiences with her family and four other Jews hiding from the Nazis for almost two years in the claustrophobic "Secret Annex" of a factory building in Amsterdam. Anne evolves from a smart, mischievous youngster to a passionate and gifted young woman. She wrote of daily life, her adolescent conflicts with her mother, her deep bond with her father and of her first love, Peter as well as her hopes, fears and aspirations for the future and her continuing belief that people are really good at heart. The humanity of this young girl's diary written over 60 years ago still touches the soul of every audience member by making us deeply empathize with her tragic situation. The fight when they are captured is stunning and well executed. Director Bryna Wortman takes us back to the cramped quarters where Anne spent the last years of her life and with her talented 13 member cast, she creates a magnificent production of drama at its best, making it a must see show of the spring season.

Bryna creates picture postcard moments with some of the scenes, showing the isolation of family members and how even the best of friends can't maintain relationships under trying circumstances. She utilizes the entire three tiered set complete with spiral staircase below the mainstage and three main playing areas, a kitchen/den area, a bedroom area and an attic area above it with a staircase. Scenic design is by William Wieters and the numerous 1940 style costumes are by Elizabeth Gotauco. The lighting is by Darleen Viloria and the sound design is by Dan Moses Schreier especially frightening are the bombing and Nazi's sirens. The claustrophobic atmosphere is splendidly recreated by these talented folks.

The fantastic actress who plays Anne Frank is Jillian Blevins. She captures the exuberance of this young girl who grows into a woman and keeps your attention from start to finish with her dynamic line delivery and acting prowess. Her relationships with the other cast members shine and her interactions with them are standout moments in the show. Nicholas Foehr plays her patient and loving father who is the only member of these 8 people who survives the concentration camps. The closing scene where he describes what eventually happened to the others is a tearjerking moment and will leave you with tears in your eyes even after the curtain call. Her long suffering mother is played by Jaclyn Marfuggi and her bright older sister is played by Shelley Cohen. They both have wonderful scenes with Jillian where you see the struggles she has with behaving as her mother did and trying to be more like her sister as well as some comic ones, too. Donald Dallaire and Alison Kantrowich 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. They both give these roles a comic edge to them as well as giving them serious moments when they are needed. Kyle Maddock is wonderful as the petulant 16 year old Peter who at first dislikes Anne's bratty behavior but eventually grows to love her as he gets to really know her. Kyle handles the transition from awkwardness beautifully and he shows his acting range from his last role as a callous cad.

Erin Olson does a great job as the sympathetic Miep who helps hide the Franks and the others in the annex. Her warmth and friendliness to these tragic people shines through in her performance. Ian Richardson plays Mr. Kraler who helps Miep hide everyone. William Hancock-Brainerd rounds out the cast, playing the fuss budget dentist, Mr. Dussell. His reactions to rooming with Anne and to the Van Daan's unpleasant behavior gives some comic relief in the midst of their trying times. So for a splendid portrayal of this wonderful script, be sure to catch "The Diary Of Anne Frank" at URI.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" (28 April - 7 May)
Upper College Road, KINGSTON RI
1 (401) 874-5843

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide