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Review - The Diary of Anne Frank

Drake Lucas
The Patriot Ledger
May 13, 2005
Curtain Call Theatre gives 'Anne Frank' new vitality

Anne Frank's story is not new. Her World War II diary, first published in 1947, has been translated into 67 languages. The play itself, based on Anne's diary, begins at the story's tragic end.

But the Curtain Call Theatre in Braintree is able to present the familiar story with fresh emotion, palpable tension and a polished sparkle in Anne's eye. The play ''The Diary of Anne Frank,'' which opens tonight, will run through May 21.

The intimate theater draws people into the crowded attic where the 13-year-old Anne hid with her Jewish family, the Van Daan family and dentist Jan Dussel (Michael Pevzner) to escape deportation by the Nazis in World War II Amsterdam.

The play opens in the silence of remembrance as Anne's father returns to their hide-away annex alone after the war. David DaCosta carries the character of Otto Frank with strength and compassion. He opens the pages and begins reading as Anne's optimistic voice flows into the theater.

The quarrels, fear and suppression of hiding are all seen through the bright eyes of a spontaneous and eternally hopeful teenager who narrates her experience of trying to grow up without a corner to call her own or any of her friends with whom she shared childhood.

Anna Finklestein plays the part of Anne flawlessly with youthful energy as she mimics the adults, sulks, and has a crush on the reserved, shy Peter, played by Andy Oberbeck.

The haughty, materialistic Mrs. Van Daan (Toni Ruscio) and the selfish, grumbling Mr. Van Daan (Mark Logue) are the bickering couple who break the peace of the Frank family as they share the attic space that is so small, people had to sleep on the floor. The crowded set is well-designed to reflect a life of people living on top of each other - literally. The loft beds provide a way to keep all characters on stage, a technique that demonstrates the lack of space and inability for anyone to be alone or move freely. No one suppressed her emotion more than Anne who longed for expression in a place of confining silence.

''When we get out of here, we're not going to remember how to dance,'' she says with naïve irony as she waltzes across the room. Gradually, everyone lets certain customs be forgotten as they are kept inside for 25 months and food and other supplies become more scarce.

The entire cast plays the scenes with remarkable sensitivity, and sometimes even a German accent. They make the air tense at the ring of a telephone, make the stomach drop at the sound of a truck pulling up outside, and send a cold fear into the audience at the brusque march of Nazi footsteps.

The story is dark and quiet but touched with humor and warmth. The cast gave enough time to the dialogue to allow the interaction between characters to develop, especially the tender closeness of Anne and her father and Anne's romance with Peter. At the end, the audience has grown with the characters.

In recent weeks, people around the world have memorialized the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps to call attention to and remember the millions of people who died at the hands of Nazi cruelty.

Perhaps there is no better way than to honor the vibrancy, struggle and creativity of those who lived. The Curtain Call Theater's production allows the timeless characters of Anne's story to survive.

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK At the Curtain Call Theatre, 182 Commercial St., Braintree. 8 p.m. May 14, 19-21. $14. 781-356-5113, www.curtaincallbraintree.org .