A key problem with the Stratford production of The Diary Of Anne Frank, the true story of two families hiding in Amsterdam from the Nazis, is Maggie Blake's Anne.
Her frequent voice-over narration is as one-note and uninvolving as a prairie horizon. Even in her moments of excitement at the approach of womanhood -- the text is the revised version by Wendy Kesselman, which adds a sense of Anne's maturing to the original script by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett -- there's a forced quality that doesn't reach into the character.
And then there's little sense of family or group, not among the Franks nor their enforced neighbours the van Daans.
Still, some great work comes from Lally Cadeau and Robert King as the bickering van Daan parents, the serio-comic team with an inflated sense of self-importance and concern for food. The other actor worth watching is Diane D'Aquila, whose still, calm centre as Mrs. Frank anchors the production.
Although director Al Waxman doesn't deliver most of the play's emotional climaxes, he adds a few skilful touches. The characters stay onstage during intermission, unable to relax even when the audience can stretch its legs. And he makes the discovery and removal of the families a quick, silent tragedy -- no screams or beatings here, just a swift, merciless exodus toward the snuffing out of so many lives.
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman, directed by Al Waxman, with Maggie Blake, Diane D'Aquila, Stephen Russell, Adrienne Gould, Robert King, Lally Cadeau, Nicolas Van Burek and Deborah Hay. Presented by the Stratford Festival at the Avon Theatre, Stratford. Runs in rep to November 5. $38.50-$67.50. 1-800-567-1600. Rating: NNN
Forced Anne Frank