BWW Review: An Effecting ANNE, A NEW PLAY - A Heroine Humanized
The U.S. premiere of ANNE, A NEW PLAY receives a sturdy mounting by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, under the strong directing reins of Eve Brandstein. The uniformly talented ensemble present most translucently the re-imagined Anne Frank's Diary of A Young Girl, in the words of playwrights Jessica Durlander & Leon de Winter (translated by Susan Massotty and adapted by Nick Blaemire). Sound designer Derek Christiansen most complementarily heightens the claustrophobic, hovering, impending doom with his ominous footsteps, bombs exploding, and static-ridden radio broadcasts.
ANNE, A NEW PLAY's conceit has a grown-up Ann recounting her diary to a very interested publisher in a Paris bistro. Throughout the years in hiding out at her father's workplace attic, grown-up Anne narrates the various goings-on of the encloistered Jews.
Ava Lalezarzadeh commands center stage in the pivotal role of teenager Anne. Interesting choice (though totally committed and executed) to play Anne as a precocious, spoil brat. I, as an audience member/critic felt guilty not 'liking' the historically heroic character of Anne Frank. If I ever, EVER talked back to my parents as Lalezarzadeh's Anne did to hers, I would have been slapped silly and sent to the corner of my room.
Rob Brownstein firmly anchored ANNE as Anne's father Otto, a solid rock center of the Frank family and the people he shared their safe space with. Brownstein's Otto totally registers as the warm, smart, fair person anyone would be lucky to have on their side.
Mary Gordon Murray shines as Auguste van Pels, the matriarch of the family Otto share their attic with. Murray's Auguste's emotion-packed breakdown, full of frustration and desperation, simply stuns!
Kevin Matsumoto completely inhabits his role of the socially-awkward Peter van Pels, who through no efforts of his own becomes the confidante/object of desire of Anne.
Hints of Anne's older sister Margot being a most interesting character sprinkle the first hour of this intermission-less one-act. Finally near the end, Marnina Schon as Margot gets her own spotlight in the stage as she vividly describes what she plans to do when returned to their life of freedom. Wish Schon's Margot had much more stage time (even though Margot in Anne's book has hardly any prominence).
Also providing ample and vital support - Andrea Gwynnel as Anne's mother Edith, Tony DeCarlo as Pfeffer, the single man sharing Otto's safe space, Aylam Orian as Herman van Pels, and Timothy P. Brown as Anne's publisher.
All tech contributions effectively suggest the 1940's Amsterdam period: Desma Murphy's basic, yet intimated, multiple-leveled set, Ian James' air raid lighting, Florence Kemper Bunzel's period costuming, and Christiansen's projections.
A most effectually staged ending that I won't spoil.