The Diary of Anne Frank | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Diary of Anne Frank 

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THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, Attic Playhouse. This new adaptation by Wendy Kesselman--a revision of the Pulitzer-winning drama by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett--partly restores the real Anne Frank. Drawing on the 1995 definitive edition of her diary, Kesselman has made Anne more Jewish and less "universal," more sexual and less saintly, and angrier at her parents. Still missing are Anne's antipathy to her parents' loveless, commercial marriage, for which she blamed her father and despised her mother, her Electra complex, and her flirtations with lesbian fantasies.

What remains in this Attic Playhouse revival is the claustrophobia of the "secret annex" that eight people shared, irritating one another day in and year out. Though their saga hints at heroism, what breaks the heart is the ordinariness of their attempts to preserve decency and domesticity in the face of fear; just by surviving, the Franks and Van Daans rose above a culture of hate.

Catherine Davis's earnest staging--the midwest debut of Kesselman's Broadway revival--captures the look and feel of captivity: the lack of privacy, Anne's home schooling, the fights over food, and the girl's "dates" with Peter in the attic. Carolyn Carpenter looks like Anne and communicates her ardor well. The other actors--especially Sandra Greenberg as Mrs. Van Daan--offer solid portraits of utterly unpretentious, unwitting martyrs who simply want a full life. What's still needed is more variety in the pacing, which would distinguish the revelations from the routine.

--Lawrence Bommer


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