If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan

WESTPORT PLAYHOUSE OFFERS SOLID “ANNE FRANK”    

Her story, more timely than ever and seen to very good advantage in its current revival at the Westport Country Playhouse, “The Diary of Anne Frank” is bound to move audiences of all ages once again.  This is a solid, worthy production about heartbreaking history.

“The Diary of Anne Frank” chronicles two years in the life of a teenage girl who, with her sister, parents and various neighbors, hid herself in an Amsterdam attic during World War II.  Adapted from the original diaries by screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, the revival in Westport is the latest adaptation of this popular drama by playwright Wendy Kesselman.   Kesselman’s version is more faithful to the original work, retaining some of the ethnicity that was watered-down in the 1956 play along with subtle hints at Anne’s budding sexuality.  It is altogether a richer, more deeply felt and believable play than its predecessor.

Under the sensitive direction of Gerald Freedman, this “Anne Frank” is blessed with an ideal actress in the central role.  All wide-eyed and exuberant, Molly Ephraim’s Anne is a youthful girl who initially considers the attic hiding a grand adventure.  Ephraim exerts a sunny optimism and boundless energy on the cramped living quarters.  By act two, however, the actor has brought more depth and shading to the role as Anne grows up a little and slowly appreciates the everyday terror that surrounds them.  It is a lovely performance. 

Also wonderful is Felicity Jones as Anne’s fearful mother and Mitch Greenberg, everything you’d want in Otto Frank, Anne’s patient and wise father.  In a smaller but crucial role, Monica West registers effectively in her few scenes as Miep Gies, a friend of the Franks who brings them food and news from the outside world. 

Scenic designer John Ezell’s cluttered attic is a marvel of detail and Travis McHale’s lighting cast shadows in all the right places.  There is also some effective, often terrifying sound provided by Rusty Wandall.  If the coda of the play seems an afterthought and somewhat confusing (the drama seems to have two endings), it doesn’t prevent this very fine production from moving its audience to tears by final curtain.  Although a familiar tale, Anne Frank’s story is one that should never grow old.

“The Diary of Anne Frank” continues at the Westport Country Playhouse through October 30th.  For further information or ticket information call the theatre box office at 203.227.4177 or visit: www.westportplayhouse.org.

Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company.  He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com.  His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.
This review appeared in Elm City Newspapers beginning October 20, 2010


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