On Anne Frank’s thirteenth birthday, she received a gift of a red plaid diary in which she shared her innermost thoughts with an imaginary friend Kitty.  She wrote about being hidden in the attic of her father’s office building for two years in Amsterdam during the war, thanks to the courage and kindness of Miep Gies, a woman who died recently at the age of 100 and never considered herself a hero.  Miep defied the Nazis and hid Anne and her family, at great personal risk, and, more importantly, rescued Anne’s diary for posterity.

Tragically Anne never reached the age of sixteen, dying of typhus two weeks before the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen she was sent to was liberated to signal the end of World War II.  The American journalist and novelist Meyer Levin recognized the literary and dramatic power of Anne Frank’s words and devoted decades of his life to their endurance as a beacon of hope and promise for future generations.  To date, her book has been translated into sixty-five languages and more than thirty million copies are in print.

Levin’s thirty-year odyssey as Anne’s spokesperson or “teller” is the subject of a new play by Rinne Groff, under the astute direction of Oskar Eustis.  “Compulsion” will electrify audiences at New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre until Sunday, February 28, starring Manny Patinkin as the fictionalized writer Sid Silver who is a Don Quixote of sorts, battling publishing houses and Broadway producers instead of windmills and dragons.

Patinkin is fiery and focused as the enthusiastic and resolute idealist, so intent on the production of his version of Anne’s story that he can see no other.  Even when his screenplay is rejected in favor of husband and wife team Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics Award, he pursues law suits and public battlegrounds to be heard. Clearly his compulsion crosses the line into unhealthy obsession, as he risks his marriage and mental health in pursuit of his quest.

Joining Patinkin with equally fine performances are Hannah Cabell as his wife and as a literary agent and Stephen Barker Turner as a series of publishing house editors and an Israeli friend.  Puppeteers Emily DeCola, Liam Hurley and Eric Wright portray Anne and others.  This world premiere production is a joint venture with The Public Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

For tickets ($35-82), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Wednesday, February 17 and Saturday, February 20 and Sunday, February 28 at 7 p.m.  There are no performances February 8-15 and Saturday, February 27.

Get caught up in the overlapping worlds of two writers, one an impressionable young girl who despite the terror of her life still believed “that people are really good at heart” and a seasoned journalist who took her story so to his soul that it became his own.


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