Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Scenic designer Misha Kachman has created a multi-level environmental setting that makes the audience (seated on two sides of the black box) feel as if they are also crowded into the "secret annex" in Amsterdam where eight Jews hid from the Nazis for two years. Director Derek Goldman is working with a powerful cast, keeping the tension high in a story whose ending everyone knows.
Anne Frank, who was 13 when she went into hiding with her family, has become a symbol of the lives destroyed in the Holocaust, but people may forget that she wasn't a paragon. Carolyn Faye Kramer's portrayal shows the intelligent, spirited girl who first sees her new life as an adventure but soon becomes frustrated and exhausted by the lack of privacy and the need to coexist with near strangers. She's almost manic and rather off-putting at first, but she modulates her performance as the scenes pass and she becomes the solid core of the drama.
The cast has no weak links, but the standouts are Paul Morella, achingly tender as Anne's father, and Michael Russotto, who brings depth to the comparatively small role of Mr. Dussel. Other familiar Washington actors include Brigid Cleary as Anne's mother, Eric Hissom and Susan Rome as Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, and Kimberly Schraf as Miep.
Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett received the 1956 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the original version of this play, but Goldman is working with a 1998 version adapted by Wendy Kesselman that incorporates details that Otto Frankthe only one of the eight to survive the Holocausthad edited out of his daughter's diary before the original publication. Also, the play premiered only about a decade after the end of World War II and the losses of the Holocaust were still a raw wound, so Goodrich and Hackett gave the play a final scene that allowed audiences a serious but uplifting resolution; Kesselman ends the play on a more straightforward note.
Zach Blane's lighting design and Matthew M. Nielson's sound design help to bring the audience into the isolation of Anne's life. She can hear church bells and police sirens, thunderstorms and airplanes, but she can hardly ever see through the heavily curtained window of their enclosure.
Olney Theatre Center