BWW Review: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK Sheds Light on Dark, Dark Times at New Stage Theatre in Jackson
Picture this: Eight people living in a secret annex over a functioning business, spending their days in silence for fear of losing their lives. Now imagine that being your life for 2 whole years. That was the reality for the Frank family, the Van Daan family, and a Mr. Dussel, who joined them in their hiding place a few months into their stay. When the Holocaust began, Jews all over Europe were targeted by Nazi Germany and went into hiding, and this story gives insight into the life of those in one of these hiding places.
Sponsored by Trustmark and the Crystal/Erlich families, The Diary of Anne Frank was presented at New Stage Theatre in Jackson, Mississippi, as part of its 53rd season by special arrangement with Samual French, Inc. The entirety of the play is performed inside of the secret annex, cross-sectioned to show the small rooms and attic of the annex, giving it a very intimate feel while also showing the audience the harsh reality of just how limited their space was and just how much more overcrowded it felt as time went on.
Leading the cast in the role of Anne Frank was Elizabeth Thiel. Thiel did a spectacular job of balancing her character's optimistic, bubbly personality with the fact that as a teenager, Anne knew far too much of the horrors the world had to offer. As funny and perky as she could be at times, she just as easily gave heartbreakingly poignant monologues. Larry Wells, Emily Wright, and Sarah Coleman completed the Frank family as Otto Frank, Edith Frank, and Margot Frank respectively. The Van Daan family, Peter, Mr., and Mrs. Van Daan were played by Hayden Schubert, Viola Dacus, and Drew Stark. Ward Emling completed the residents of the secret annex as Mr. Dussel. The whole cast presented their characters in such a way that the transition from cautiously optimistic about the possibility of an invasion to rescue them, to pessimistic about the time gone by and lack of freedom, and eventually to fatalistic in regards to food rations and hope just running out. The story played out beautifully in each of their performances.
Mr. Frank's final monologue, as the only survivor telling of the deaths of all of the annex members, was heart-wrenching and moving. While the story did not have a happy ending, it was truly insightful as to what life for Jews was like in Europe during the Holocaust and how, while fear was ever-present, their were some who made sure that their stories lived on.