I first read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was eleven and since then it has had a profound affect on me; I am pleased to say that no film or stage version has moved me as much as the production currently playing at Intiman Theatre.
The cast is a group of seasoned actors. The adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett – though not entirely historically accurate – succeeds in giving a humanized look into the lives of eight Jews, who did everything they could during the horrific years of World War II to preserve their hope and, ultimately, their lives. As I was leaving the theatre, I heard the woman behind me saying, “It’s so sad. We all know how it is going to end, but it’s still so sad.” We do know how the story ends, with the discovery and death of all the people in hiding, save Otto Frank; yet, I could feel the audience around me hoping it would end some other way as they began to know these courageous people being portrayed on stage.
Lucy DeVito (in foreground) with the company of Anne Frank at INTIMAN Theatre. Photo by Chris Bennion.
As Anne Frank, Lucy DeVito is initially impish, appropriately childlike, and the epitome of a young girl going through the trials of growing up. As the play progresses, so does her Anne, becoming a hopeful – but not naive – young woman. DeVito clearly has a gift for comedy, but she proves herself as a strong dramatic actress as well. Her Anne is entertaining, innocent, and humbling, all at once.
Matthew Boston plays Mr. Frank, the only occupant of the secret annex to survive the genocide, and the person who oversaw the publication of Anne’s diary. He evokes sympathy throughout, but is strongest during his silent moments – his expressions and physical tension are exceedingly powerful. Equally affecting is Amy Thone as Mrs. Frank. She is a worn, silent sufferer in this role – compassionate and strong, even through her exhaustion. As Margot Frank, Lindsay Evans does not have a large part, but delivers it with fitting grace and reservation, echoing the performance given my Ms. Thone.
The audience feels for Connor Toms as Peter Van Daan, the boy who becomes a friend and confidant to Anne. He perfectly captures the frustration and confusion a young boy growing up under such conditions must have experienced. He is sensitive and touching.
As Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, Michael Winters and Shellie Shulkin provide comic relief but also have some of the most vulnerable moments of all the characters. They are human, and these actors showcase their fear and anxiety. Alban Dennis plays Mr. Dussel, the dentist who hides with the Franks and Van Daans. His is the only character that pronounces resignation to his plight – he is aware and paranoid, so very awakened to the suffering outside. Dennis has a wonderful physical presence; even when he is silent his character’s anxiety and stress is evident.
Carol Roscoe, as Miep, and Jim Gall, as Mr Kraler, play the people who looked after the eight souls in hiding. They perform their roles with compassion and subtle apprehension; however, their characters do not have many chances to appear – this is a story about the people in hiding.
The set design, by Nayna Ramey, is impressive, creating an apartment of many levels which is based on the factual secret annex. Sound, by Chris R. Walker, is also to be noted – along with the lighting by Marcus Dilliard, it helps to make the production realistic. Costumes, by Frances Kenny, are practical and appropriate to the time period down to the underclothes. The play is admirably directed by Sari Ketter.
This is a humbling production, one that reminds me how powerful the theatre can be. The chemistry between the cast and audience was so strong, the story touching everyone’s heart. Anne Frank was a special girl, not for the way she died but because of the way she lived. This production reminds us of that by making her experience real – alive, humorous, pitiable. I hope that everyone will see this play and be inspired to take action against the genocide and oppression still going on in the world. Intiman should be tremendously proud of this presentation.
April 5th, 2008
The Diary of Anne Frank
March 21 – May 17
INTIMAN’s ticket office: 206.269.1900
INTIMAN Theatre is located at 201 Mercer Street on the Seattle Center campus. It is served by buses 1,2,3,4,13,15,16,18,45, 74 and 85 and others. For bus times: tripplanner.metrokc.gov
Did you see this show? Leave a comment and tell everybody what you thought!