The Pittsburgh Public Theater's 2015/2016 season is underway, and BOLD had the pleasure to take in the production of The Diary of Anne Frank - running September 24 – October 25, 2015 at the O’Reilly Theater. Directed by Pamela Berlin, The Diary of Anne Frank stars Remy Zaken (noted for her appearance in Broadway's Spring Awakening) as Anne. Randy Kovitz and Chris Laitta play her father, Otto, and her mother, Edith, with Erika Cuenca cast as her sister, Margot. David Wohl and Helena Ruoti play Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, with David Jackson cast as their son, Peter. Wrapping up the players are Daniel Krell as Mr. Dussel, Ken Bolden as Mr. Kraler, and Kelsey Carthew as Miep.
As the proverbial curtain went up, the scene was a discussion with Otto Frank and Miep as Otto slowly climbed the stairs, visiting the attic for the first time since being taken captive by the Nazis. Otto was overcome with despair as he recalled how much he lost as a result of the Holocaust, and how even though his family had been in hiding, he was still unable to save them from the horrible fate that befell them. Miep revealed to him that she saved Anne's diary, and the story begins to unfold as Otto settled into the couch with the diary and began to read his daughter's writing. The narration changed from Otto's voice reading Anne's words to Anne's voice narrating her own thoughts as we were transported back in time to the day the family went into hiding. The bulk of the play was various scenes taken from Anne's diary entries. As the play neared its end, you could see the despair as the refugees realized they could be discovered any day. The production "completes" the story as Otto finishes reading his daughter's diary while sitting with Miep and Mr. Kraler in the attic.
The character of Anne was beautifully developed. She started as a typical young teenage girl who talked almost incessantly. As the play progressed, it was Anne's character that made things seem "normal." It was her spirit and passion that made me sad when I realized her life was cut tragically short as a result of the war. Her sister Margot was the quiet and demure shadow of their mother. She did as she was told, and spoke when spoken to - completely opposite of Anne's rebellious and inquisitive character. I appreciate Mrs. Frank's spirited emotional break when food was running low and it was discovered that Mr. Van Daan had been sneaking rations while everyone else slept. Between that outburst and the helplessness she felt over her tense relationship with Anne, Mrs. Frank reminded me of my own mother. Mr. Frank was a businessman, but more importantly a father who did everything in his power to protect his family during war-torn times. His management of the situation showed his business sense, while his gentle demeanor and relationship with Anne told how much he cherished his family and his daughter.
The set was beautifully adapted. The stage was open on three sides with the scene set in an attic with a couple of separate hideaway rooms off the main area and an "upstairs" area utilized as bedrooms for the hideaways. The main area contained a small living room with a sofa and chair, a dining area table and chairs and a small sink, stove, and pantry. A set of stairs entered from below the front of the stage - fitting as the refugees were hidden in an attic space. Furnishings were appropriately set to detail how small the space was for the eight (8) refugees sharing such tiny quarters. Mr. and Mrs. Frank utilizing the living room as their sleeping space was pretty much how I imagined it would be - one sleeping on the sofa, the other on a makeshift bed beside it.
As a fan of literature (and because it was required middle school reading) I read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl when I was in school. I remember feeling saddened that a girl - the same age as I was at the time, had to live through such an experience. As a teenage girl myself, I kept a diary. But, somehow, my problems paled in comparison to the young Jewish girl locked away in hiding in an attic during World War II. I knew the pages were published posthumously by her father - as he was the sole survivor of the eight refugees, but the play put that into a deeper perspective as I watched Anne and her family live their lives for over two years in the attic. Although my first questions dealt with how they were going to make the story work for a production, I realized the goal of any performance is to portray the material in a way that not only tells a story, but captivates the audience. Based solely on subject matter, I was curious to see just how the players would accomplish this goal. The answer: beautiful story telling. Director, Pamela Berlin, and the cast - including Remy Zaken playing the part of young Anne and Randy Kovitz playing the part of Otto hit me with a definite case of the feels. If you have the opportunity to catch a showing, please do. Recommended by the Pittsburgh Public Theater for audiences age 12 and older, it is both a great piece of history and a beautiful piece of literature brought to amazing life by the Pittsburgh Public Theater.
Pittsburgh Public Theater Presents
The Diary of Anne Frank
September 24 – October 25, 2015
Tues. at 7 pm. Wed. thru Sat. at 8 pm (except Oct. 7).
Sat. at 2 pm (except Sept. 26 & Oct. 3). Also 2 pm on Thurs., Oct. 22.
Sun. at 2 & 7 pm (expect Oct. 25 when the final performance is at 2 pm).
Opening Night is Friday, October 2.
Ticket prices start at $30. Tickets for students and age 26 and younger are $15.75.
For tickets call 412.316.1600 or visit ppt.org
Photos Provided By: Pittsburgh Public Theatre and Missy Sorg