BWW Review: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK Brings a Lesson of Hope to Sacramento Theatre Company
"It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."
How I wish that, in 2017, these words were only a history lesson. That it is something to look at from the safety of the future. It is only a remembrance of a time so terrible that surely such a monster could never exist again. A tale of a society so broken that normally good people were swayed and lulled to complacency by promises of change that would never happen. It was a perfect storm for the downfall of a nation and the stealthy rise of a tyrant.
Director Casey McClellan again brings a World War II era piece to the Sacramento Theatre Company and makes it relevant to what we are experiencing today. Like last season's The Glass Menagerie, The Diary of Anne Frank Deals with the human emotions brought on by betrayal, loss, and, ultimately, hope.
We all know how this story ends. What we don't know, and what these actors and director managed to convey, is the amount of living that was done in that annex at Prinsengracht 263-267. It is a story of humans brought together in the most formidable circumstances who forge together for two long years. It is a story of the irrepressible human spirit. It is a story of good vs. evil. It is a story of how life goes on, despite our surroundings. Most of all, it is a story of a young girl who continues to teach us, 72 years after her death, to look at all of the good around us and to keep believing, no matter how bad things may seem, that there is always a silver lining.
Maddy Wood shines in her role as an effervescent Anne Frank. She shows an understanding beyond her 14 years by capturing the playfulness and childlike curiosity that Anne shows in her early diary entries, while seguing to a more mature Anne towards the end of the play. She is an Anne who has become a woman and experienced her first kiss while trapped in an attic for two long years. Ms. Wood peppers Anne's optimism with droll insults to her fellow attic companions and manages to make an incredibly lugubrious situation into one that alleviates the audience's dread.
Otto Frank, Anne's father and the natural leader of the annex, is played with appropriate stoicism by the talented Michael Jenkinson. He conveys intelligence, acumen, and fear simultaneously and effortlessly. His affection and pride for Anne is evident, as is his anguish at the end of the story when he finds out that she has perished.
Casey McClellan shows his directing prowess by making a powerful statement at the end of the show when the Nazis come for the 8 in the annex. Ending the show with the sound of the door being broKen Down and a floodlight on the stairs made a huge impact with just knowing what it heralds.
Rounding out the impeccable cast are Natasha Hause as a Peggy Bundy-esque Mrs. Van Daan, Eric Wheeler (Mr. Van Daan), Gary Martinez (Mr. Dussell), Dale Lisa Flint (Mrs. Frank), Nick Leras (Peter), Paige Johnson (Margot Frank), William Oberholtzer (Mr. Kraler), and Kristen Myers as Miep Gies.
I believe that a message that we can all take from a young girl who should have been afforded the opportunity to do more great things is this, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Please, heed her word.
The Diary of Anne Frank plays at Sacramento Theatre Company September 27-October 22, 2017. Tickets can be purchased at sactheatre.org or by calling (916) 443-6722.
Photo credit: Charr Crail Photography