"The Diary of Anne Frank"

Post-Gazette NOW

May 01, 2007


With "The Diary of Anne Frank," Prime Stage Theatre once again brings to life a literary classic in a thought-provoking and entertaining manner.


It is a well-known tale: Anne Frank's family and four other Jews in Amsterdam hide from the Nazis in a small annex of an office building. The group of eight spends two years in cramped quarters, living in fear, longing for the outside world, growing up and trying to hang on to hope, with all of it recorded in teenage Anne's diary.


The play is an ensemble piece, with especially moving performances from Alan Solter and Deborah Wein as Anne's parents, Otto and Edith. Thomas Kurt Fuchel Sr. and Patricia Samreny as Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, Charlie Wein as their teenage son, Peter, Ronald Fernandez as Mr. Dussel, and Renana Fox as Anne's sister, Margot, all give unwavering portrayals of confusion, fright, anger, pettiness and regret.


But it is the character of Anne that will make or break the famous story, and Olivia Meyer carries the title role with aplomb. Also 13, she not only resembles Anne, but she also captures the girl's spirit, one minute being a headstrong and irritating teen and the next showing maturity beyond her years, trying to still believe in the goodness of people. Meyer has little acting experience, making her naturalness as Anne even more noteworthy.


The two-hour production never drags, thanks to the deft direction of Wayne Brinda. The material is familiar, yet Brinda is able to insert some unpredictable moments, and the discovery scene is still climactic. Set designer Gianni Downs takes full advantage of the New Hazlett Theater, creating an authentic space that restricts the characters without limiting the acting. During scene changes, Meyer's narration of passages from Anne's diary and projections of Anne's photos on the back wall add to the setting.


Chat sessions featuring local members of Hidden Children of the Holocaust follow each performance. It is Prime Stage's continued effort to encourage discussion and show how Anne's story is still relevant.