The Diary of Anne Frank

By Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett
Adapted by Wendy Kesselman

Directed by Bryce Blair
A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

It shows true commitment to your craft to take on a subject that demands great amounts of understanding to what the human spirit will endure and the effects of hate. To see all of these things through the eyes of a young hopeful girl who saw the good in people no matter what resonates in The Diary of Anne Frank, the personal diary of a young victim of the Holocaust that was later adapted to a play. A powerful story with elements of great emotion that seem far too overwhelming to even begin to fathom, the theatrical director has a challenge laid out for him. In YMCA of Southern Indiana’s Family Theater’s current production, the material is approached as though the audience is silent witness to innocent victims of one of the most tragic events in history.

Without a doubt, this is no ordinary theater experience. Due to the nature of the narrow rectangular performance space, the staging and blocking is in the round. Set pieces and sections of seating for audience are intertwined. This technique provides an intimate, up close and personal experience. On the other hand, this restricts the performance as well. In a sweet moment between Anne and her fellow hider, Peter, there was a major hindrance in visibility as well as being able to hear the young actors. Where most of the attention was incidentally placed on the centrally located dinner table, more attention should have been drawn to the action occurring between the two younger actors.

In his curtain speech, director Bryce Blair informs his audience of a few house rules concerning intermission and how his cast would not be leaving the performance space. This was a fascinating idea which fits the claustrophobic feel of the play. Perhaps a more obvious cue like pre-show music or even a simple blinking light signalling the beginning and end of acts would have helped the audience to know appropriate times to applaud. This idea of keeping the innocent people trapped on stage while constantly in audience view strengthened the concept for the show. Yet during intermission audience members whispered and composed themselves as though the performance was still happening. I hope one day the YMCA Family Theater can revive this production, complete with the same theater-in-the-round concept in a more theatrical friendly space.

As for the individual performances, credit is due. Makenzi Cooley has boundless amounts of youthful energy that matches teenage girls from every walk of life and every era. She makes a spirited effort to match the steadfast hopefulness of what Frank wrote about during her time in hiding. Sharon Cardwell and Howard Whitman are Mrs. and Mr. Van Daan, the family who share the hiding room with Frank’s family. Stressed out, worried and fearful, these two actors make strides to match the authentic emotions of those who actually were hiding. Jeremy O’Brien is noteworthy as Alfred Dussel, Anne’s cranky bunkmate. O’Brien faces a challenge in his role as a man who is stoic and stern with the Van Daans and Franks. He manages to gives a softer tone to a character that has a critical and harsh edge. Grace Poganski and Larry Chaney provide strong support as Anne’s parents, Otto and Edith. These seasoned veterans to the Louisville area theater community provide subtle performances and shine as a couple who are not only trying to show any kind of fear but also ease the growing tensions of their family and friends.

The Diary of Anne Frank is an emotional story about hope and optimism in a time of great evil in the world. A production of any kind involving Anne Frank’s story demands care, authenticity and, most importantly, respect. And this production is certainly a respectful tribute.

The Diary of Anne Frank

May, 10, 11, 16 & 17 at 7:30 p.m.
and May 12 & 19 at 2 p.m.

The YMCA of Southern Indiana Family Theater

Performances will be held at the YMCA’s Camp Honor Bright
(7804 Old State Road 60, Sellersburg, IN 47172)

Tickets are $10 General Admission.
Seating is limited, so reserve your seats early.