The Diary of Anne Frank – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Can you imagine the unimaginable: having to flee the safety of your home, with a minimum of belongings, because you are in danger of being arrested for your beliefs? Unfortunately this has happened all too often and we need to guarantee it never happens again. The Playhouse on Park in West Hartford is providing a sterling look into one such event with an outstanding production of “ The Diary of Anne Frank” by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and adapted by Wendy Kesselman, playing until Sunday, November 19.

Come meet Anne, beautifully realized in the hands of Isabelle Barbier, a young actress born to play this role. Her sensitivity and luminescence make Anne achingly real. On the occasion of her thirteenth birthday, Anne is gifted with a red plaid diary in which she recorded all her personal thoughts and dreams, an adolescent girl who wrote about the incredible circumstances forced upon her as one Jewish victim of the Holocaust.

She and her family, and her father’s business partner’s family were all forced to hide for two years. To escape capture and persecution by the Nazi Germans during World War II, they lived in the attic of her father’s office building in Amsterdam. With the help of two righteous Gentiles (Elizabeth Simmons and Michael Enright), they avoided detection, being silent while the building employed workers from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and getting food and supplies from their rescuers, Miep Gies and Mr. Kraler.

On a multi-layered set designed by David Lewis, you will have the unique experience of feeling like you are in the crowded attic with Anne, her father Otto (Frank van Putten), her mother Edith (Joni Weisfeld), and her sister Margot (Ruthy Froch). Sharing their secret annex are Otto’s business partner the Van Daans, (Allen Lewis Rickman and Lisa Bostnar) and their teenage son Peter (Alex Rafaela). Later a dentist, Mr. Dussel (Jonathan Mesisca) is given sanctuary with them.

Anne’s diary pages are filled with the everyday life in their hideaway, their squabbles, the constant diet of kale and potatoes, the blossoming romance between Anne and Peter and the ever-present fear of detection and deportation. They all lived for the periodic visits by their guardians who risked their own lives to hide them, and brought them hope and a sense of fresh air and the little necessities to make their lives more palatable. This production is beautifully directed by Ezra Barnes, with an outstanding cast, with Christopher Bell’s lighting, Joel Abbott’s sound and Kate Bunce’s period clothing adding to the experience.

After the families were betrayed and arrested, it was Miep who found the pages of Anne’s intimate reflections and saved them, giving them to Otto Frank, the sole survivor. He worked for years to make Anne’s dream a reality, of making an everyday account of “our struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and glory.” Today it has been translated into over 67 languages in 30 million editions worldwide.

For tickets ($25-40), call the Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10, or online at Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Watch for the next Play Reading Series on Tuesday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m. with Dog Whistle by Michael Kimmel ($10) and Comedy Night at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 22 ($15).

Learn how one voice speaking for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust could still insist “I still believe in spite of everything people are truly good.”