Review: The Diary of Anne Frank at Amherst Workshop Players
First, the script was excellent. The original has Otto Frank returning to the annex at the beginning of the script and opening Anne's diary. The play then becomes a "flashback" to the retelling of the story. The new revision simply has the action start with the family entering the annex. Much more powerful. The reason that theatre has always been considered the "most dangerous" of all art forms is because of its immediacy. This production was immediate.
The theatre, Amherst, Ohio's Workshop Players, is an old one room schoolhouse. The acting area is perhaps 16' x 24' in area. The set designer hung rafters over the audience's heads, drawing us in as if we were in the annex with the Franks and van Danns. Everything was stark and bare with no color in the lighting except for blues for the night scenes. I couldn't find anything out of place. Costumes were not only authentic, but very sharp. It must be remembered that Otto Frank and Herman van Daan were well-to-do businessmen. The clothing that they and their families would have taken with them would have been very well-fitting and perfectly tailored. Not only did the actors have authentic era clothing, but it was not ragged or threadbare like so much other community theatre costuming.
This closeness to the action made the scene where the Nazi soldier and the Dutch collaborators take everyone prisoner that much more intense. Even though I knew what was coming, my heart was racing when they came up through the trap door in the floor. Perhaps what was most frightening to me was the fact that the soldier wore what appeared to be an authentic SS uniform and one of the Dutch collaborators wore a Swastika tie pin. I didn't ask where they got them and didn't really want to know where such things can be gotten today.
The most intense part of the production, though, was the very ending. Otto delivers a heartwrenching monolgue describing the families' last days in captivity. Unlike the original script that simply lists where they died, this monologue details how they died. I'm probably biased, because Jack, who played Otto, also played Tevye in my production of "Fiddler on the Roof," but the delivery was incredible and he even brought himself to tears.
While "Anne Frank" is not your typical light summer fare, it was certainly worth the price of a ticket. I must say, there are some incredible community theatre actors in Northern Ohio. Ten of them showed an audience of about 80 people yesterday the true meaning of "catharsis."