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By Shira Tydings, Cold Spring Harbor
High School, New York
In January 1998, I attended a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank, at the Music Box Theater on Broadway. I had read the diary and watched the movie before I went to the play, so I was familiar with Anne Frank and her history. I found the play, however, more interesting than I anticipated. The acting was superb.
Natalie Portman, who stars as Anne, was very believable. She took on the role of Anne well, laughing and talking incessantly, as Anne is portrayed in the diary. Although not the focus of the play, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan played integral parts in the play. Linda Lavin's portrayal of Mrs. Van Daan was everything it should have been -- flirtatious, cranky, and entertaining. The role of Miep Gies, the woman who helped the Franks and Van Daans survive in the attic, is pivotal to the Franks' story. Miep provided food, books, and information for those in hiding. The actress who portrayed Miep demonstrated the humble, compassionate, and benevolent nature of Miep very well.
Although one of the early criticisms of the play addressed the company's work as an ensemble, I found that all of the actors worked together to perform a cohesive unit to illustrate the famous diary.
Much controversy has surrounded Anne Frank's diary and this new production on Broadway. The original Broadway show, which debuted in 1955, was written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. The two wanted to remove much of the "Jewishness" from the story so that the play would appeal to a large number of people. But the 1997 version has included many Jewish references. In addition to the characters' systematic removal of the yellow stars of David, all of the members of "the annex" celebrated Hanukkah and helped to light a menorah on stage.
It has also been written that the original show tried to deemphasize the fact that those people in hiding were escaping persecution by the Nazis during the Holocaust. However, the new play has chilling reminders of the evil that lurked outside the secret annex. The sky above the hiding place is a dark red, a symbol of the blood spilled by innocent people. There are shrill air raid sirens which break an otherwise silent night. The sound of trains clattering on train tracks is a painful reminder of the six million Jews and five million other people taken by train to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. And, the final scene in which the annex is discovered by Nazis, forces the audience to reflect on the final predicament of Anne and the others in hiding. The Diary of Anne Frank incorporates Judaism and reminders of the Holocaust in such a way that one cannot walk away from the play without thinking of the awful time period in Europe when innocent people were killed just because of their religion.
Overall, I felt that the play made a sufficient number of references to the Holocaust. Though much more could have been included, I believe that a Broadway show is not the proper place for a history lesson. People attend the play to be reminded of the Holocaust (although it is not an uplifting topic) and to see a well-performed artistic representation. The Diary of Anne Frank does justice to the actual diary and the time period in which the story occurred. Everyone should see this play.
[ AETI 1998 Table of Contents ]
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