James Dunn’s Brilliant Presentation of The Diary of Anne Frank At RVP
James Dunn’s Brilliant Presentation of
The Diary of Anne Frank
Ross Valley Players is currently presenting The Diary of Anne Frank by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, adapted by Wendy Kesselman. Newly discovered writings from Anne’s diary, as well as survivor accounts, are interwoven in this adaptation to create a contemporary impassioned story of the lives of people persecuted under Nazi rule in Europe.
When the audience enters to see The Diary of Anne Frank, the set is in full-view onstage. Ron Krempetz’s recreation of the Amsterdam rooms where the Frank family and four others hid, from 1942-1944, is properly bleak and shabby.
The play is bookended with scenes of Otto (Avi Jacobson) revisiting the attic with family friend Miep Gies (Dana Cherry), who had arranged their hiding place and kept them supplied with provisions for 2 years.
Frank’s story is well-known, thanks to the diary – first published in 1947 – in which she wrote throughout her ordeal. In this moving RVP production, Anne (played by Brigid O’Brien) was 13 when she and her parents, Otto and Edith Frank (Pamela Ciochetti) and her older sister Margot (Hannah Leonard) moved into the upper floors of an office building to hide from the Nazis, who had invaded the Netherlands in 1940. What the Franks hoped would be a short-lived arrangement (because surely the war would end soon), turned into 2 years.
They shared the space with the Van Daan family. Mr. Van Daan (Steve Price) is Otto Frank’s business partner. Mrs. Van Daan (Kristine Anne Lowry) arrives wearing a fur coat, although it is July. Their teenage son Peter (Jeremy Ivory-Chambers) arrives with his cat. Later, Mr. Dussel (Jim Fye), a dentist, moves in with them.
Eight people, including five adults, naturally find it challenging to live together in such close quarters. With restrictions on talking and moving about, as well as a constant fear of capture, it’s surprising that their daily life was ever peaceful. In this adaptation, there is a teenage romance. Anne gives out funny homemade gifts at Hanukkah. The adults light Sabbath candles on Friday night.
Brigid O’Brien makes Anne’s transition from a little girl to a young woman believable and a bit sad. She captures both Anne’s innocence as well as her intense charm.
Smoothly directed by James Dunn, the whole cast is a solid, tight-knit ensemble. Steve Price is a standout, making Mr. Van Daan a warm-hearted figure with real strength and a love of life. Kristine Anne Lowry, as Mrs. Van Daan, has some lovely moments. Avi Jacobson makes Otto Frank’s postwar monologue (the plays last speech), absolutely heart-wrenching. The production side is solid throughout, from veteran Director James Dunn’s beautiful blocking to the set design, construction, and scenic designs by Ron Krempetz, Ian Swift, and Dhyanis, as well as Michael Berg’s 40s-styled costumes, Frank Sarrubi’s lighting, and Stephen Dietz’s sound design.
This riveting depiction of a horrifying time in the life of young Anne Frank and 8 others began its run January 15th and will continue through Sunday, February 7, 2016. Regular performances are scheduled for Thursdays 7:30 p.m., Fridays 8:00 p.m., Saturdays 8:00 p.m., and Sunday Matinees are at 2:00 p.m. For tickets to The Diary of Anne Frank, go online to www.rossvalleyplayers.com or call 415/456-9555, ext. 3. All performances take place at The Barn, home of the Ross Valley Players, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross.
Photo Images by Robin Jackson
Coming up next at RVP will be Arches, Balance and Light, a World Premiere by Mary Spletter and directed by Jay Manley, from February 19 through March 8, 2016.
Flora Lynn Isaacson