Saturday, March 29, 2014

“The Diary of Anne Frank” at Ocean State Theatre

by Richard Pacheco
            “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Ocean State Theatre is a fascinating and compelling production with solid performances and direction. The play is a dramatization by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway on October 5, 1955. The play received the Tony Award for Best Play and was also nominated for Best Actress (Susan Strasberg), Best Scenic Design (Boris Aronson), Best Costume Design (Helene Pons), Best Director (Garson Kanin). The play also received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich. Susan Strasberg won the 1956 Theatre World Award. The play also received the 1956 New York Drama Critics Circle award for best play. In manuscript, Anne Frank's original diaries are written over three extant volumes. The first covers the period between 14 June 1942 and 6 December 1942. Since the second volume begins on 22 December 1943 and ends on 17 April 1944, it is assumed that the original volume or volumes between December 1942 and December 1943 were lost—presumably after the arrest, when the hiding place was emptied on Nazi instructions. However, this missing period is covered in the version Anne rewrote for preservation. The third existing notebook contains entries from 17 April 1944 to 1 August 1944, when Anne wrote for the last time before her arrest. Anne Frank's story has become symbolic of the scale of Nazi atrocities during the war, a stark example of Jewish persecution under Adolf Hitler, and a dire warning of the consequences of persecution.
            The group hides in the sealed off upper rooms of Mr. Frank’s offices in Amsterdam. The rooms were concealed behind a hidden bookcase.
            Olivia Gesualdi makes her professional acting debut with this role at OSTC. She is pert and sassy as the young woman who receives the dairy as a gift from her father on her 13th birthday. It is an auspicious debut done with vitality and honesty, moving and funny by turns.

            Mark S. Cartier is excellent as her father, Otto Frank, with a keen ear for accent and a sense of dignity and genuine concern for others as a man caught up in a difficult circumstance with his family during trying times. Cartier brings a sweep of humanity and compassion to the role which is impressive.
Karen Gail Kessler is Anne’s mother, Edith Frank, a woman who does not fully understand her daughter’s ways and opinions but loves her very much. Kessler is confident as the mother, delivering a deftly nuanced performance and an excellent accent throughout.
Margot Frank is Anne’s older sister. Margot is pretty, smart, emotional, and everyone’s favorite.
Ethan Paolini is Mr. Van Daan who worked with Mr. Frank and helped him out when he first came to Amsterdam. The father of the family that hides in the annex along with the Franks and who had worked with Otto Frank as an herbal specialist in Amsterdam. he is intelligent, opinionated, pragmatic, and somewhat egotistical. Mr. van Daan is temperamental, speaks his mind openly, and is not afraid to cause friction, especially with his wife, with whom he fights frequently and openly Paonlini is right on the mark as Van Daan
His wife, Mrs. van Daan is at first a friendly, teasing woman, but later an instigator. She is a fatalist and can be petty, egotistical, flirtatious, stingy, and disagreeable. Elise Arsenault plays her with flair and fire, making the most of her often nasty nature and petty attitude with her penchant for things over people.
Peter van Daan is the teenage son of the van Daans, He can be obnoxious, lazy, and hypersensitive, but later they become close friends. Peter is quiet, timid, honest, and sweet to Anne, but he does not share her strong convictions. Brian Roque plays Peter with an ease and confidence that makes him appealing.
Albert Dussel is a dentist and an acquaintance of the Franks who hides with them in the annex. He is particularly difficult to deal with because he shares a room with Anne, and she suffers the brunt of his odd personal hygiene habits, pedantic lectures, and controlling tendencies. Tommy Labanris plays Dussel with skill and poise, making the most of his foibles in a well defined performance.
Sarah Pierce is Miep, who helps hide them. Rudy Sanda is Mr. Kraler who also helps hide them and bring them information and food. They round out the large cast with zest and energy.
            Aimee Turner directs the production as it moves along with sincerity and conviction under her sure hand. The only thing awry in it is the occasionally fluctuating accents of some of the actors who slip in and out of the accents. Scenic designer Amanda R. Hall offers a superb set of the attic, rich in detail and effectiveness. Costume designer Jessie Darrell-Jarbadan offers excellent period piece costumes with skill and finesse.
            It is an excellent production well worth seeing despite the issues with accents.
            It continues at Ocean  State Theatre (March 26 – April 13)
@ 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, WARWICK RI

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