DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
by Frances Goodrich &
adapted by Wendy Kesselman
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
September 22 – October 23
604.280.3311 or 604.687.1644
The publication of Anne Frank’s diaries after the Second
World War and the 1955 play based on them gave a human face to
The sheer numbers of the murdered, the death camp photos of piles
of bodies and indistinguishable skeletal survivors had been numbing.
But a young girl’s first-hand account of tenacity, deprivation,
bravery, terror and optimism while hiding from the Nazis made the
horror personal and immediate. Anne’s death in Bergen-Belsen
gave added poignancy and power to her narrative.
Over the years, familiarity has somewhat diminished its power.
We’ve come to think of it as a kids’ book and a young
people’s play about saintly victims.
Playwright Wendy Kesselman’s new adaptation re-humanizes
the inhabitants of the secret annex in Amsterdam where the Frank
family, the Van Daans, and Dussel the dentist endured for two years,
their experiences recorded in detail by the observant, imaginative
Anne. They all live vividly again, perfectly cast in Rachel
Ditor’s exquisite Arts Club production which opens the season
at the Stanley.
Crowded together in the confines of Ted Roberts’ elaborate
set, beautifully lit by Marsha Sibthorpe, the eight Jews can’t
speak or move during the daylight hours when workmen are in the
building. Their lives resume in the evenings when they try
to construct a semblance of normality, supplied and protected by
the righteous Dutch Gentiles Miep (Tasha Faye Evans) and Mr. Kraler
But tensions wear on them, food runs short and tempers fray. Fussy,
neurotic Dussel (Sean Devine) is sometimes hard to take. Mr.
and Mrs. Van Daan (Bill Dow and Gina Chiarelli) can also be difficult,
quarrelsome and critical, helping give the play its tragicomic
texture of reality. Anne finds her sister Margot (Anna Cummer)
too perfect, dislikes her mother (Jennifer Clement) and idolizes
her father (Richard Newman). And she mercilessly teases poor Peter
Van Daan (Ryan Beil), though a teenage romance will blossom between
them in a series of lovely scenes. The work of this ensemble
couldn’t be better.
In a delightful and richly nuanced performance, newcomer Anastasia
Phillips plays Anne as a smart, bratty kid, funny and precocious
like that other Anne of literary fame. Her enthusiasm for life
can barely be contained by the walls of her refuge. As she physically
matures and discovers her sexuality, Anne matures emotionally as
well. She shows a depth of understanding far beyond her years,
accelerated by circumstances and the impending doom we know all
too well is coming.
In light of what we see and hear on stage, the words of one of
Anne’s final diary entries are both understandable and shattering: “I
still believe in spite of everything that people are really good
When this show ends, it feels almost obscene to applaud.