THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, adapted by Wendy Kesselman, directed by Alexander Galant, with Jennifer Waiser, Andrew Gillies, Carol Lempert, Shira Leuchter, Sarah Dodd, Philip Shepherd, Gabe Plener, Kelly Bolt and Eric Weinthal. Presented by Marshall Arts at the Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst). Runs to November 7, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $25-$35. 416-872-1212. Rating: NN Rating: NN
It's great that almost all the school matinees of The Diary Of Anne Frank are sold out. The Holocaust is a tragic part of history that shouldn't be forgotten. It's too bad, though, that audiences don't get a better production than this poorly directed one by Alexander Galant .
The revised text incorporates previously suppressed sections of Anne's diary about her sexuality and emotional life while she and the others in the Amsterdam attic cope with the pressures of hiding from the Nazis.
In addition to the intense physical and psychological claustrophobia, Wendy Kesselman 's adaptation offers a look at Anne's growing interest in bodies, her own as well as others'. This lends poignancy to Anne's interest in the teenage Peter and illuminates the flare-ups between her and her mother and her older sister.
But Galant's production squanders most of the play's strengths. Also credited with the design, the director has staged the show on a broad, awkward set that dissipates the closed-in feeling we should share with the characters.
He further loses dramatic tautness with clumsy blocking; the actors rarely relate believably with each other. The final episode loses its chill when performers cross in front of the audience before climbing to the stage.
Jennifer Waiser has the right instincts for the title role, from her initial impetuosity and playfulness to her optimism and newborn wisdom, but her Anne is a successful creation only toward the play's end. The stressful episodes with her mother ( Carol Lempert ) always ring true, though, and Lempert's initially fearful, later angry Mrs. Frank grows in strength in the second act.
That second half gives a few other actors a chance to develop their characters. Sarah Dodd 's Mrs. Van Daan, at first shallow and silly, reveals a new side when she talks revealingly about meeting her husband. Similarly, Andrew Gillies 's previously stiff Mr. Frank lovingly delivers the final speech about the attic's residents. Kelly Bolt 's Miep brings warmth to the show whenever she's onstage.