The Diary of Anne Frank, the high stakes drama directed by Rachel Grossman brought to life on the Rose stage is a depiction of historical significance but most importantly, humanity. It’s a slightly new take on the classic adapted by Wendy Kesselman from the original script by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.
Centered around the life of a thirteen-year-old girl who goes into hiding in Nazi occupied Amsterdam for two years, the work is both tragic and compelling. A diverse cast lends novel interpretation to fleshed out historical characters. Upon receiving a call up for Anne’s sister Margot to report to a labor camp, the entire family found themselves in imminent danger. The Franks left their home to hide in the attic of a spice factory, known as the “Secret Annex.”
Sophie Williams as Anne is spirited and spunky in her portrayal of Anne and boisterous at times. She conveys emotion well, and her storytelling carries an adept charm. Her sister Margot, (Belle Rangel), is soft spoken and demure. Otto Fox plays an aloof and often annoyed Peter Van Daan, who over time warms up to Anne’s antics and teasing.
Casting is intentionally diverse, with Wai Yim playing Otto Frank and Dani Cleveland portraying Edith. Diversity helps to explore a relatable side of the characters, amidst the dissonance that can occur from historical accounts where the audience can find themselves detached from real life characters’ stories. The Frank’s family dynamic is very interesting in the sense that not everything was always harmonious; tensions arose and anxiety was at an all-time high with the impending possibility of being caught every day. Yet there are tender moments shared that reflect once again the love of family and the fight of survival.
Following the timeline, we get to see Anne through the many stages of her tragic adolescent life cut short, the emotional distance between her and her mother Edith, her close bond with her sister Margot, and the romance between her and Peter Van Daan. Confined in close quarters for so long it’s easy to see how such feelings could develop between the teens on the cusp of adulthood. A kiss between the two is a heightened moment that adds another layer to an already dire ordeal. The set reflects this imbalance, with vibrant colors starkly contrasted with the darkness of the outside world of an impending doom. Costumes by Zach Kloppenborg reflect vibrant colors as well, and are constructed to look period with a more contemporary feel.
Anne longed to be someone, to go to Hollywood or to become a famous author. Although her life was tragic, she became a historical icon with a legacy that has lived on in both story form and immortalized in film. The words in her diary speak volumes about the conditions of life in the Annex. To not be able to go out into fresh air or to have to eat rationed food for two years, enduring the squabbles of adults and experiencing the foreshadowing nightmares of being caught and arrested by the Gestapo.
For this production The Rose partnered with the Institute for Holocaust Education and the Jewish Federation of Omaha, so that the cast could have a cultural and immersive experience of Jewish tradition, including songs and Shabbat during Friday night rehearsals.
The Diary of Anne Frank plays through March 15th and is one hour and forty-five minutes without an intermission at The Rose Theater. Tickets are available for purchase through The Rose Theater’s Website.