The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank
directed by Judith Dresch
review by Janice Riese, Los Altos Town Crier
at the Manhattan Playhouse, East Palo Alto, CA
through December 1992

Manhattan Playhouse in Palo Alto is presenting "The Diary of Anne Frank," the moving story of a Jewish family forced into hiding in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. The time frame is from July 1942 through August 1944 with updated scenes in November 1945 opening and closing the play.

Playwrights Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett have adapted the diary left by Frank into a two-act play that became a Broadway hit in the 1950's.

Director Judith Dresch has transformed the theater into an upstairs loft over Mr. Frank's Herb and Spice store. Here, the four Franks (Father, Mother, Margot and Anne), the Van Daans and their son Peter and a Jewish dentist, Mr. Dussel, are to spend the next two years, crowded together, constantly in fear and with never enough food.

Two Dutch people, Miep Gies (Anita Khalat Bari) and Mr. Kraler (Mark Solomon), are their messengers from the outside world, placing themselves in grave danger if they should ever be caught harboring Jews.

The pivotal role is, of course, that of Anne, 15 when we first meet her and 17 when she is forced from the safety of the attic by the Nazi soldiers. She writes in her diary every day, and her reading of what she writes carries the action along.

Natalie Skelton is extremely good as Anne, changing from the outspoken, noisy, not too likable child (she was called "quack-quack" in school) to a quieter, more understanding and quite grown-up young lady. Her diction is excellent, her delivery clear and precise. It is Anne who never gives up hope and keeps the rest going in spite of hardship.

Mr. Frank, warm and sensible, is excellently portrayed by Jack Weissman. Annette Boyenga is the sympathetic wife and mother who loves her family (but does not understand Anne, according to Anne). The role of Margot, the quiet one, always doing what her mother tells her, is well-handled by Amber Land.

William F. Morrison is a loud and thoroughly unlikable Mr. Van Daan; Joanne Eagle is good as the vain but frightened Mrs. Van Daan, Ryan Noto's Peter is sullen and withdrawn at first, but he, too, changes with the months, learning to understand and love Anne and to accept himself as a worthy person.

Dresch has done a sensitive job of directing (she is also general "overseer" of the whole production). This is not an easy play to watch as it brings back the horrors of the holocaust, a time of terror and suffering.

Review by Janice Riese, Los Altos Town Crier