Fine acting in a bad, if hallowed, play

Posted: October 22, 2011

EgoPo Classic Theater, under Lane Savadove's direction, launches its Festival of Jewish Theater with The Diary of Anne Frank at the Prince Music Theater Cabaret. How do you review an excellent production of a terrible play? Especially when that play is iconic? Well, here goes.

The story, as everyone knows, is about a 13-year-old Jewish girl who, with her parents and older sister, hides from the Nazis in an attic along with another family and a dentist. Eight people, living in fear and hunger, alert to every noise, getting on one another's nerves. Many of the eight people are annoying, as people are; they are also brave and affectionate. Sometimes they are noble, sometimes ignoble. All the ingredients for a good drama.

Wendy Kesselman's adaptation of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett's dramatization of Anne Frank's diary includes material originally excised by Anne's father - references to his daughter's burgeoning sexuality and her strained relationship with her mother. More good ingredients.

The problem is the diary itself: Basically we are listening to a teenage girl for two hours. She uses the most dreadfully hackneyed language, as a 13-year-old would, which means the script is swamped by triteness. She gushes. She stands on tippy-toe and yearns. She pries into adults' private lives. She is rude and bratty and self-important, as teenage girls are. She deserves a good smack, but who would smack Anne Frank, the beloved martyr of Amsterdam?

Matthew Miller has created a set evocative of the claustrophobia and hideous lack of privacy of the attic. Natalie De La Torre has costumed the cast in excellent period clothes.

The entire cast does a fine job, creating three-dimensional personalities: Sara Yoko Howard as Anne; Rob Kahn as her father, Otto Frank; and Melanie Julian as her mother, Edith; K.O. DelMarcelle as her sister, Margot; Johnny Smith as Peter, the son of the second family in the attic; Cindy Spitko as Miep, the Dutch woman who hides them; Brendan Norton as the dreadful dentist; Russ Widdall as the humiliated Mr. Van Daan; Mary Lee Bednarek as his wife; and Mark Cairns as Mr. Kraler.

Hats off to them all.


The Diary of Anne Frank

Presented by EgoPo Classic Theater at the Prince Music Theater Cabaret, 1412 Chestnut St. Through Nov. 6. Tickets: $32. Information: 800-595-4849 or www.egopo.org


Follow Toby Zinman on Twitter at #philastage. Read her reviews at www.phillynews.com/phillystage.

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