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

The Diary of Anne Frank 

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THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, Village Players Theater. Wendy Kesselman's 1997 revision of a 1955 stage adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett delivers a far more complex Anne Frank than we got from her censored diary. This Anne, played with bratty immediacy by Tiffany Liveris, is no dreamy innocent--she's painfully unfinished, angry at her mother's loveless marriage, powerfully drawn to pictures of female statues, and unashamed of describing her period, her "sweet secret." Above all, she's universal.

David Schmitz's production avoids the cuts that hobbled Attic Playhouse's local premiere last spring and turns the Franks and the Van Daans into ordinary outcasts--their heroism is entirely unself-conscious and unromanticized. This is a straightforward portrait of refugees who give dark meaning to the idea of home schooling, enjoy the rarity of strawberries, applaud Anne's ingenious Hanukkah presents, and endure sensory deprivation, malnutrition, and claustrophobia.

But then the production throws in a heavy-handed invasion by Gestapo thugs, which is overkill, especially since it's played against the silhouettes of soldiers and a scrim depicting writhing Holocaust victims. Far more effective is the brutally terse epilogue delivered by Otto Frank, the sole survivor, as he describes the fate of his family.

The 13 cast members do evoke the period and the permanence of their characters' tragedy, but they should subdue the shouting--all Amsterdam would have heard these fights. Still, the performances have a solidity that's more honest than technique.

--Lawrence Bommer

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