By Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett
Adapted by Wendy Kesselman
Directed by Kimberly Senior
At Writers Theatre, Glencoe
Intimate production honestly presents the fears, the terror, and the blind hope of young Anne Frank
The Diary of Anne Frank, one of the largest selling books of all-time with several movies and many stage adaptations, still haunts me. I have visited her hiding place in Amsterdam and read her diary several times, including the restored version, and I keep hearing her voice. She was a pure innocent, a gifted writer and the ultimate symbol of the purity. Anne Frank defined the best of the human spirit—she’ll never be forgotten.
Writers Theatre’s production is honest with terrific ensemble work from the eight hidden Jews and their Dutch friends depicting the horrors of war. This unsentimental work is a testimony to the human spirit as we see how Anne’s (the superb Sophie Thatcher) zest for life and her innate goodness exemplify the countless youngsters sniffed out in the Holocaust.
The personalities of each character are accurately portrayed. From Otto Frank’s (Sean Fortunato) calming decency to Edith Frank’s (Kristina Valada-Viars) stoic coldness, to Mr. Van Daan’s (Lance Baker)) selfishness to Mrs. Van Daan’s (Heidi Kettenring ) favoritism toward her husband, to the stiff dentist, Mr. Dussel (Kevin Gudahl) the fussy nerd to Margot Frank’s (Lila Morse) docility to Peter Van Daan’s (Antonio Zhiurinskas) shy and sensual teenage boy, we grow to like and appreciate these folks as we become sad when their fate inevitably occurs. Leah Karpel as Miep Gies and Coburn Goss as Mr. Kraler aid the eight as brave Dutch folks.
Above all, the work rests on Sophie Thatcher’s glowing and delightfully playful optimism as Anne Frank. Thatcher lo0ks the part dimples and all with a naturalness and warmth that easily gives her Anne empathetic status. We easily grow to love her Ann and we relish her eternal optimism. The ensemble work was detailed, believable, and subtle as the haunting terror of being cooped up for more than two years in an attic was deftly depicted. The restored passages from Anne’s diary give a fresh and truthful perspective on the teen’s thoughts. The Diary of Anne Frank is a marvelous work worth another look. The blocking and honesty of this cast makes director Kimberly Senior’s production an ensemble triumph. The close quarters in the Writers’ Books on Vernon venue adds much to the intensity of fear and foreboding from the two families. Sean Fortunato and Sophie Thatcher anchor this deeply emotional production.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 5, 2015
For more info checkout The Diary of Ann Frank page at theatreinchicago.com
At Writers Theatre Books on Vernon, 664 Vernon Ave, Glencoe, IL, call 847-242-6000, www.writerstheatre.org, tickets $35 – $70, Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 1 hour,40 minutes without intermission, through June 28, 2015.