Anne Frank: a far better telling of the story

Fighting Chance Productions. Anne Frank. Havana Theatre.

Playing Anne Frank, Morgan Hayley Smith is disarmingly present.

I thought I didn’t need to see another production of The Diary of Anne Frank. I was wrong. This production from Fighting Chance deepened and revitalized the story for me and introduced me to exciting new talent.

Wendy Kesselman’s 1997 adaption, which is being used here, is vastly superior to the original 1955 stage play. In an effort to be universal, the 1955 version, which was written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, largely stripped Anne’s story of its Jewish specificity—which is amazing when you consider that it’s one of the iconic narratives of the Holocaust. “We’re not the only people that have had to suffer,” Anne says in Goodrich and Hackett’s telling. “There have always been people that have had to. . . Sometimes one race . . . sometimes another.” And, in making Anne a spotless martyr, the 1955 play flattens the historical figure.

Kesseleman restores all of that. True to history, Kesselman’s Anne identifies strongly as a Jew and the residents of the attic honour Jewish traditions. True to her diaries, Anne is a complicated figure who is devoted to her father Otto but declares that she doesn’t love her mother Edith: “I can imagine her dying,” she says, “whereas Papa’s death is unimaginable to me.” Kesselman also restores Anne’s full sexuality, including her declaration that that she finds female nudes “so exquisite I have to fight to hold back my tears.” [Read more…]