BWW Review: Heartbreaking Yet Hopeful, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK at SCT
Sit in a crowded attic room, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You never get to go outside, and during the day you can't make any noise. If you do, monstrous people will find you can take you away to be killed simply because you're different from them. Do this for two years. Now, one last thing, have a positive attitude the entire time. Such is the ordeal Anne Frank, a 13-year-old girl, her family and others had to endure during the German occupation of Amsterdam between 1942 and 1944 and, of course, the subject of one of the most famous accounts during World War II, "The Diary of Anne Frank", currently being presented in play form at Seattle Children's Theatre. But beyond the lovely performances and impactful presentation, hopefully viewers will come away realizing how fortunate we are for the freedoms we still have and how important it is to look out for those that are being marginalized.
The play, a joint production with Indiana Repertory Theatre, as written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and adapted by Wendy Kessleman, not only focuses on Anne (Miranda Antoinette Trout) but on the others sequestered with her as they try to survive. The turmoil as people became sick, or took more than their fair share of food, or just plain got on each other's nerves. But, naturally, the main focus is on Anne and seeing her grow up yet still retaining her positivity even writing, "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."
The stirring production, as directed by Janet Allen, beautifully shows all areas of the small attic in a fantastic set from Bill Clarke but highlights certain areas with some haunting lighting by Andrew D. Smith. So even while we may be focusing on Anne, you can still see the lives around her going about their day. And the superb sound design from Andrew Hopson brings to life the isolation and danger all around them.
But the show is truly brought to life by the wonderful ensemble, each one getting their moments but remaining a cohesive unit. Troutt brings in the hope of the play, as she embodies the life of this young teen. And is stunningly offset by the fear and pain from the others. You can feel the panic as Hannah Ruwe slowly breaks down while playing her sister, Margot. Or the shame from Rob Johansen as Mr. Van Daan when he sneaks some bread but is then comforted by his wife played with no holds barred by Constance Macy. Betsy Schwartz as Anne's mother portrays a stunning arc as the situation builds but also as she attempts to connect with a teenage daughter. And the romantic relationship with Peter van Daan as played by Benjamin Neil McCormack is adorable to the point that you almost forget where they are. But the most stirring moment comes from Ryan Artzberger as Anne's Father in his final scene as he recounts their fates.
Tragic and heartbreaking yet still retaining its hope and wonder, the show manages to shine a light on what people can do through adversity. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "The Diary of Anne Frank" at Seattle Children's Theatre a "don't for get the tissues for this one" YAY. It's amazing what they made it through. Could you?
"The Diary of Anne Frank" performs at Seattle Children's Theatre through May 19th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Children's Theatre box office at 206-441-3322 or visit them online at www.sct.org.