“Diary of Anne Frank” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – May 20, 2018


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Intolerance dooms our world today as it has throughout history.  There are many graphic examples in plays, books, and movies but one of the strongest discussions occurs in “The Diary of Anne Frank” as it describes how two Jewish families survive German evilness during World War II in Amsterdam.  The story is a downer but the gripping Arizona Theatre Company production, staged artfully by artistic director emeritus David Ira Goldstein, pulls audiences into the story as the lives of two families blends in a cramped attic.

The families don’t know each other causing a myriad of issues while living together for over a year that results in personal conflicts, outright dislike, but also allows thinking individuals to explore ways to live together successfully.

In such a situation, peoples’ individuality does not always result in smooth relationships.  As Hitler’s Nazi’s take over German lands, Jews are exterminated forcing many to hide.  The two families here are combined in the attic above a thriving business.  While the store is open, the attic dwellers must remain quiet to avoid detection.  Only at night can these prisoners live but they can never leave their accommodations.  The Frank family, Otto and Edith plus daughters Anne and Margot, reside with the Van Daan’s and their son Peter.  Each family approaches life differently causing friction as irritations abound, fights break out, and tempers must be quelled.

Anne, the central focus, has grandiose plans and ideas plus typical teenage tensions with her parents and sister.  She’s never explored sexual feelings so she and Peter eventually grapple with these emotions.  She’s an amazing and complex young woman.  The second act becomes a pivotal period challenging every attic resident.

Goldstein’s tautly staged production captures the ridiculous living conditions and the emotions that rule these families.  The sprawling set captures the confines these families endure and how important private space is to everyone.

Brilliant as Anne is Anna Lentz who captures the girl’s brilliance and how, at a young age, she can handle the issues and tests hiding presents.  Devon Prokopek’s Margot shows how differently two sisters react to the same issues.  Steve Hendrickson’s Otto is the stable patriarch who guides his family brilliantly through the tumultuous existence.  Naama Potok plays Edith as an even handed arbitrator who evolves into a territorial person as tensions soar.  Ann Arvia’s Mrs. Van Daan reveals her lifelong frustrations that she can no longer hide.  John G. Preston’s Mr. Van Daan is an emotional rollercoaster while Gus Cuddy’s Peter emerges as a credible young guy.

“The Diary of Anne Frank” is a powerful but depressing testament to the evils that people project onto to others during stressful times.  It is an indictment of intolerance and the evils such thinking can have on others.  The artful ATC production does this brilliant play its due.  It continues through June 3.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995.

Grade: A