Highly Recommended ***** One play that most every theater-goer has seen (several times, no doubt) is “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. This book of course is taken from the pages of young Anne Frank who with her family and an extended family struggled to survive during the Nazi takeover of Europe. In this version, adapted by Wendy Kesselman and now being performed by Writers Theatre, we, the audience are made a part of the extended family that is living in the attic above a factory that is surviving one day at a time. Directed to perfection by Kimberly Senior on a unique set (Jack Magaw has outdone himself with this one) in the very intimate space located in Glencoe’s Books on Vernon. I am not sure how many of you know this space, but it is in the back of the book shop that Writers has brought rich theater to the North Shore for many years, and this one is no exception.
When you enter the book shop located 664 Vernon Avenue, and walk past the volumes of literature, you will find that they have taken over additional space, and they have opened up a small lobby area before the rest rooms and entrance into the theater. The actual theater, while somewhat expanded is still a very unique space in its intimacy. After all, they only have 60 seats and in this particular production they have a cast of 13. I am sure that is a first. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is a simple tale that reminds us that we “must always remember”, one of the darkest periods in history.
Anne (a sparkling portrayal by young Sophie Thatcher), her sister Margo (Lila Morse), her mother Edith (a wonderful performance by Kristina Valada-Viars) and her father, Otto (deftly handled by Sean Fortunato, who may have found his perfect role in this one) have moved into the upper floor of a local factory to escape being found by the Nazis. With themare Frank’s business partner, Mr. Van Daan (ably played by Chicago favorite Lance baker) and his wife (Heidi Kettenring in one of her finest non-musical roles) and their son Peter (deftly handled by Antonio Zhiurinskas) and Mr. Dussel (another Chicago favorite, Kevin Gudahl). These are the people we, the audience, will spend the next 100 minutes with (no intermission) in what appears to be these tight quarters where we must be silent all day and can only relax in after the bells toll six and the workers leave.
These people had limited food supplied to them by their saviors Mr. Kraler (Coburn Goss) and Miep Gies (Leah Karpel). There was one water closet that could not be used during the working hours. Over our years of surviving with them, we witness changes in their relationships and attitudes. While the story is mainly that of Anne (after all it is her diary that was the inspiration to tell this story to the world) it is deep into the family itself and Anne’s “coming of age” as we watch her become a woman, fall in love, learn to cope with others and to survive with her family, both actual and extended during a war that destroyed far too many.
Of course, everyone knows the story and the outcome of this tale, but it is the way that this production relates it to us that is most impressive and should garner a few Jeff Awards. Every detail in this production is sheer perfection. All of the cast members are solid in their characters. The tech is amazing: costumes (Nan Zabriskie), lighting (Sarah Hughey), sound (Josh Schmidt), props (amazingly handled by Nick Heggestad) and the fight choreography (David Wooley) are all ingredients of a superb recipe for great theater. I truly suggest that you put this production on your MUST SEE list.Yes, even if you have seen it several times before. You haven’t seen this production- and you should!
“The Diary of Anne Frank” will continue at Writers Theatre-Books on Vernon through June 28th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 6 p.m.
Check with the theater on some Wednesday matinée dates as well.
Tickets range from $35-$70 and can be purchased by calling 847-242-6000 or at the box office, just north and around the corner from Books on Vernon at 321 Park Avenue or online at www.writerstheatre.org
The theater is located at 664 Vernon Avenue- plenty of free parking and close to the Metra station.Check out the Metra special promo at www.writerstheatre.org/metra
There are some special events to pay attention to-
Sunday, March 15th at 1:30 p.m.”In Their Voices” presented by Temple Am Shalom where a survivor will share her stories.
Sunday, March 22nd 1:30 p.m. Hosted by The Illinois Holocaust Museum where actors will do reading from “In Their Voices II”. for more info, visit www.writerstheatre.org/events
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Diary of Anne Frank”