Cedar Rapids’ Jason Grubbe in Diary of Anne Frank
New Jewish Theatre – St Louis
Few stories are as poignant and compelling as The Diary of Anne Frank, and this adaptation by Wendy Kesselman (originally scripted by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett) is made even more so by enhancing the elements already present that deal with her Jewish faith and burgeoning womanhood. The current production by The New Jewish Theatre is simply heart wrenching in its exquisite and engaging execution. A wonderful cast and sensitive direction allow this true and tragic tale to blossom fully. You can’t help but be moved by the events that transpire, and you’ll find yourself thinking how important it is that we never forget what happened so that we make sure it is never repeated.
While it’s certainly an accurate statement to say that we know how this story will turn out even before the play begins, there’s something that makes you root for these people all the same. Hidden away in a secret annex of an Amsterdam factory, the Frank and Van Daan families, along with a dentist named Dussel, must maintain their seclusion or risk being captured by the Nazis during World War II. It’s a taut situation that requires absolute quiet during business hours, and the reliance on Mr. Kraler and Miep for sustenance in order to survive.
Samantha Moyer radiates considerable charm as the young Anne, whose buoyant nature alternately ingratiates and irritates her fellow captives. To deal with her feelings and emotions she writes about her experiences in a diary. Bobby Miller and Amy Loui contribute exceptionally strong work as her parents, Otto and Edith, respectively, and Taylor Steward is also very good as her older sister Margot. Margeau Steinau and Jason Grubbe are solid as the bickering Van Daans, with Leo Ramsey making an impression as their son Peter. Terry Meddows does nice work as the easily flustered Mr. Dussel, and Stefanie Kluba and Eric Dean White are a welcome presence as Miep and Mr. Kraler. Nathan Schroeder, Erik Kuhn and Craig Jones are properly sinister in support as Nazis.
Gary Wayne Barker‘s direction really plays on the tensions that develop as time passes and the war marches onward. Barker draws terrific work from each of these performers, and as such, there’s never a false note to be found. He’s aided in his efforts by the fantastic scenic design of Jim Burwinkel, as well as the atmospheric lighting scheme of Maureen Berry. Michele Friedman Siler’s costumes capture the period and the essence of each character, and Zoe Sullivan’s sound design adds immeasurably.
The New Jewish Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank is beautifully rendered and not to be missed. This is a work that families should see together so that they can discuss and better understand the atrocities that occurred. The play continues through November 2, 2014.