‘Anne Frank’ wins and breaks our hearts

By Eric George Tauber

Eric Tauber

Anne Frank

SAN DIEGO–“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank

In 1942, after being denied visas to the United States, the Frank family went into hiding in the Secret Annex, a tight, dingy storage attic above the pickling factory that Otto Frank had owned. Sean Fanning’s set gives us the stark, confined world that the families Frank and Van Daan would be confined to.

The rules are painfully strict. They absolutely must not be heard. So during working hours, no talking, no running water, no shoes and no coughing because they can see no doctors. The silence is eerie as they read, whittle and sew, doing whatever they can to fend off boredom. Only when the church clock tower strikes six can their weighty silence be lifted.

“We’re not heroes. We just don’t like the Nazis.” -Miep Gies

Their Christian friends, Mr. Dussel and Miep Gies, are the only ones who know about the Jews dwelling in the annex. And so they bring food and news from the outside. Anyone caught hiding Jews was risking death and worse for themselves and their families. So everyone who did anything to thwart the Nazis is a hero in our book. Jamie Channell Guzman is lovely as Miep. A genuinely kind soul, her only regret is her inability to do more.

Katelyn Katz is delightful as Anna, as Anne was called. Bored, clever, spritely and impish, she causes just enough trouble to keep things interesting. When Anne Frank’s diary was published, her father, Otto Frank, made some judicious edits that remained unpublished until 1995. Adapter Wendy Kessleman put some of that material back in, painting a more complex character, one more aware of her blossoming sensuality.

Eddie Yaroch delivers a subtle, layered performance. Otto Frank was a man of wealth and dignity who had to submit to living in squalor. As the man of the house, he’s determined to appear hopeful and strong, but inside, he’s terrified.

Living under such close, stressful conditions, nerves are easily frayed and no one frays more than Holly Stephenson as Mrs. Van Daan. As a woman accustomed to wealth and status, she takes the change in station hard. Desperately, she clings to her fur coat, the last memento of her once privileged life. Nick Lux is charming as the shy, sensitive Peter Van Daan. At first, he finds Anna annoying. But as she blossoms, his changing feelings for her are revealed in warm grins and a sparkle in his eyes.

Throughout intermission, the actors busied themselves onstage. This seemed very strange until it clicked. They can’t leave. As the audience, we can come and go as we please, but they were trapped there and so could not leave. As I explained this to my guest, Director Kym Pappas, sitting two seats away, said, “Thank you. I was hoping people would get it.”

After the show, a boy fell into his mother’s arms, weeping. He wasn’t the only one. The story doesn’t have a happy ending, but it’s a tragic tale that must be told again and again. With the Alt-Right marching and chanting old Nazi slogans, and more refugees being denied a way out of a war zone, The Diary of Anne Frank could not be more timely.

Bring a handkerchief to the Moxie Theatre. The Diary of Anne Frank plays through Dec 17, 2017. And buy your tickets soon as houses are filling up fast.

Tauber is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the arts. He may be contacted via [email protected]







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