by Sue Hardie
The Diary of Anne Frank is currently playing at Theatre Palisades as the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. Theatre Palisades is presenting the original 1955 version of the play that won the Tony Award for Best Play. This is a story of Anne’s love for life, never to be forgotten and one to share with your entire family.
The moment the curtain opens upon the raw, gritty set artistically designed by Sherman Wayne, we experience the reality of the two-year ordeal for Anne and seven others hiding in cramped attic rooms during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The evocative music and foreboding sound effects by Susan Stangl convey the terror that accompanied their daily struggle for survival.
In the midst and in spite of this harsh reality, Anne’s indomitable spirit, independence, wit and impossible-to-resist enthusiasm prevail and remind us of all that is good. In a beautiful performance by Sigi Gradwohl, we see Anne grow from a young girl to a very mature teenager who is determined to live life to its fullest. One of the most moving moments among many, is when Miep (Jessica Brydon) walks in to deliver desperately needed food and supplies and Anne runs to inhale the fresh air on her clothing.
Philip Bartolf portrays Anne’s loving father Otto Frank, Sabra Miller is Anne’s mother, Edith Frank, who can’t quite understand Anne. Craig Stevens and Elise Falanga are the bickering and selfish Van Daans, and Peter Van Daan, their shy and awkward teenage son is believably portrayed by Garret Camilleri. Art Roberts is the irritable dentist, Mr. Dussel, whose character is another reminder of human frailties worthy of tolerance and care. Each of these actors are on stage at all times which makes the loneliness and isolation of Anne’s quiet sister, Margot (Courtney Long), real and heartbreaking. Mr. Kraler (Philip Apoian) tries, at great expense to his own well-being, to remain hopeful as it becomes more impossible to hide and protect his friends.
Told with tenderness and wit, this production embraces themes that still resonate today. The Director, Sabrina Lloyd, expresses it best in the playbill’s Director’s Notes:
“…words like “never forget” aren’t to be taken for granted. This is why we create theater; it’s the closest thing we have to creating a shared experience of a life not our own. Through theater we gain empathy and catharsis. We take the “other”and make them us. We find a way to embrace the “other”and contribute to ending the human legacy of genocide.”
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett; Directed by Sabrina Lloyd with Assistant Director Brynn Sillyman; Produced by Nona Hale and Sherman Wayne. Performances continue through February 22 on Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm at Theatre Palisades Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon, Pacific Palisades 90272
TICKETS: Adult $20, Seniors & Students $18, Box Office (310) 454-1970. Free Parking.