The Diary of Anne Frank

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
By:Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
Adapted by:Wendy Kesselman
Director:James Lapine
Sets:Adrianne Lobel
Costumes:Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting:Brian MacDevitt
Sound:Dan Moses Schreier
Opened:12/97 at the Music Box Theater
Cast:Natalie Portman, George Hearn, Linda Lavin, Harris Yulin, Austin Pendleton, Sophie Hayden, Missy Yager, Jessica Walling, Jonathan Kaplan, Philip Goodwin, Peter Kybart, James Hallett and Eddie Kaye Thomas

It's a plot the world knows by heart: a young Jewish girl's harrowing account of her family's effort to escape the Holocaust by hiding in a tiny attic. This revival of the 1955 play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett aroused a swirl of attention when playwright Wendy Kesselman added in new material that Anne's father, Otto Frank, deleted from the first published version of the diary. But the new adaptation's reverence for realism and historical punctiliousness emerges as both a positive and a negative. Yes, it's important to present accuracy, and in this regard, the new version is an improvement over its predecessor. However, the play's earnest attempt to leave nothing to the imagination steals from the story's inherent intrigue. Despite this flaw, the cast, especially the radiant Portman as Anne and stately Hearn as Otto, delivers moving performances. At times, though, the ensemble seems out of synch, and, as a result, the production suffers some stiff moments and an uneven rhythm. Also, Kesselman has crammed in too much of the previously expurgated material. While many of the girl's observations are precociously revelatory, at times the dialogue becomes too dense and jarring, especially when read by Portman in voiceover. Adrianne Lobel's set is hauntingly cramped and creaks with the anticipation of tragedy the moment its occupants troop in. Admirably, the production does not reduce the story to sentimental treacle, but rather fits the tragedy ? with all its bleakness intact ? into its right historical context. And as always, it's Anne's clear young voice that resonates long after her final words.

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