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Theater Review: “The Diary of Anne Frank”

“The Diary of Anne Frank” plays through December 17, 2017 at Moxie Theatre,
Photo credit:
Darren Scott

Anne Frank’s diary is arguably the best-known document of the World War II era. It’s been translated into some 60 languages and has perhaps contributed more toward the understanding of the human tragedy of the Holocaust than any other single piece.

Think of it: eight people crammed into a small annex above an office building, with survival rules that would drive anyone crazy: absolute quiet from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., no shoes, no flushing the toilet in the single bathroom until evening. But after the workers left, something like normal life could resume.

Now imagine a 13-year-old girl adjusting to these rules – and to seven other people, five of whom are strangers. And while there, writing one of the most affecting documents of that or any other war.

It is lucky for history that Anne insisted on writing “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and that her father published it after the war. The diary was adapted for the stage in 1955 by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. 

But Otto Frank had held back some parts of it from publication: bits about Anne’s burgeoning sexuality and her growing emotional distance from her mother.

When these were later revealed, playwright Wendy Kesselman wrote an adaptation using some of that information; that version opened on Broadway in 1997.

Kym Pappas directs a wonderful production of the Kesselman adaptation through Dec. 17 at Moxie Theatre.

The first residents of the annex are the Franks: Otto (Eddie Yaroch), his wife Edith (Wendy Waddell), their elder daughter Margot (Amy Perkins) and the irrepressible Anne (Katelyn Katz). Yaroch is excellent as Otto, cautious but hopeful, whose mission is to see his family and the other annex residents through this dark period. 

Waddell’s Edith tries to control her increasing annoyance with Anne, but it’s a losing battle, and her preference for Margot is obvious. Perkins is fine in the underwritten part of Margot.

Jamie Channell Guzman plays Miep Gies, a secretary from Frank’s office downstairs, and the angel who saved all the residents of the annex by bringing food, books, occasional liquor and news from outside (such as the Normandy landing). She is their ray of sunshine on those increasingly dark days. 

Very different from the Franks are Mr. and Mrs. van Daan (Jonathan Sachs and Holly Stephenson).

Mrs. van Daan does not endear herself to the other residents (nor to her husband) when she shows up in a full-length fur coat that she seems to prize above all else. It doesn’t help that she also sports an imperious attitude. Holly Stephenson is terrific at portraying this unappreciated soul.

Sachs’ Mr. van Daan seems to barely tolerate his wife. One assumes he would settle for surviving the war, with or without her.

The Van Daans have brought their 16-year-old son Peter (Nick Lux). Anne further discomfits her mother when she and Peter seem to take a liking to each other.

A latecomer is Mr. Dussel (Joe Paulson), a fussbudget dentist who becomes Anne’s roommate – an uncomfortable situation for both.

The only other named character is Mr. Kraler (Austin Wright), who helps Miep. Three unnamed Nazi stormtroopers will eventually find and round up the annex residents.

Sean Fanning’s set is more spacious-looking than any I’ve seen in this theater. It allows for more separation than I recall seeing in the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, but it works well on this stage.

Jennifer Brawn-Gittings’ costumes are perfect, and Missy Bradstreet has done a fine job on the wigs. 

Chris Renda’s lighting and Lily Voon’s sound design add to the atmosphere.

Anne Frank’s remarkable life and lasting legacy are wonderfully portrayed and brilliantly directed at Moxie. Don’t miss this one.

The details

“The Diary of Anne Frank” plays through December 17, 2017 at Moxie Theatre, 

6663 El Cajon Blvd.

Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (858) 598-7620 or www.moxietheatre.com