It seems no matter how much time passes, the treatment of Jewish people by Germans during WWII never gets any easy to talk about. However, we must continue to still talk about it and educate/remind all those who may not know or be properly informed. As Theatre is one of the most successful forms of discussion, The Diary of Anne Frank being converted into a stage play about Anne and her family is an ideal adaptation to remind us about that time. I will say, up front, Prince William Little Theatre handled this story and subject matter with the utmost respect and professionalism, ensuring no one was offended or alienated. Though, I’m quite sure we all know the story, I will give a quick overview. Otto Frank, a respected member of the community, must go into hiding once German forces begin rounding up Jewish citizens. He is able to stay in the attic of a trusted friend with his wife, two daughters, and another family. Though they are able to survive for quite some time, they are eventually found and all killed in concentration camps, except for Otto who survives.
As always let’s start with the cast. Jim Constable gave a very successful and heartfelt performance as Otto Frank, the father of the family. Elise Ariel also gave a genuine performance as the family’s matriarch, always seeming on edge and in constant fear (which is ideal for this piece). The family’s older daughter, Margot, was played by Brigid Randolph who always seemed in the moment, never once losing focus on her situation or the reality of what could happen to them were they found. Alec Henneberger gave one of the most entertaining performance as Mr. Dussel, a Jewish dentist who winds up staying with the Frank family mid-way through their stay. He succeeded in turning a role that could be forgotten into a role the audience will surely remember. Craig Goeringer (Peter), Ricardo Padilla (Herman), and Gayle Nichols-Grimes (Petronella) also all gave touching performances as members of the Van Dann family, who are living in the attic with the Franks, not a bad performance between them. In a rare review, the star of this show was the star of the show. Anne Frank, played to perfection by Lucia LaNave. LaNave flawlessly captured the youthful spirit of Anne, along with the youthful innocence, and at times, the youthful anger. It was on her shoulders to bring this story to life and to keep the audience engaged and she succeeded on both fronts. I can only imagine where performing might lead this actress, who knows, maybe we’ll all know the name Lucia LaNave!
The set for this production was very successful, having a very attic look to it, along with cramped spaces and incorporating pieces of Anne’s diary on the walls. All in all, it was very efficient and successful due to Daniel Widerski, Dave Whiting, as well as Kathryne & Nick Mastrangelo. Lights were also an important part of this production, needed to create tension and dramatic effect, kudos to Kurt Gustafson and Keeler Lambertson. The Direction for this production was very effective in delivering the message of this piece. Scott J. Strasbaugh really put in the work with his actors and they in return made this a very solid production. Were I criticizing one thing I would say the last 10 minutes seemed too neat, it felt it was trying to be finished. It could’ve been drawn out a little more and been a little more violent and heart wrenching. Other than that, the audience felt exactly how they were supposed to when they needed to.
I definitely recommend this show to all those in the VA and DC area. There are 3 more chances to see this show, Oct 27th, 28th and 29th. This show is presented at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Va. Though it is not a Halloween show, I would say in a way it is even more frightening. Making you realize that the real monsters aren’t killer clowns or zombies but simply human beings. Human beings who feed off of fear and hate.
Photo: The cast of The Diary of Anne Frank. Photo by David Harback of Harback Photography.