If you, like me, haven’t seen a production of The Diary of Anne Frank in a while, then you probably haven’t seen the version now onstage at Venice Theatre.
The work is still based upon the original 1950s theater piece by Hollywood screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, but it includes some new scenes and dialogue by Wendy Kesselman, who was apparently charged with bringing back more of the unedited diary of the young Anne, who has become a symbol for so many things since her death in a concentration camp in 1945.
You may not realize every detail that has changed in this new adaptation, but you probably will sense some changes: There’s a little bit more of Anne’s burgeoning sexuality, a little more quiet insight into most of the characters. That’s welcome, although it sometimes comes at the expense of the neater drama of the earlier play. That version was determined to be more uplifting, quoting some of Anne’s faith in the human race and leaving, amazingly, some room for hope even as the Franks are captured from their longtime hiding place and sent, eventually, to their deaths.
Kenzie Morgan Balliet as Anne in Venice Theatre's The Diary of Anne Frank.
There’s less optimism on view here, although Anne (Kenzie Morgan Balliet) is still a whirligig of emotions upon first entering the Secret Annex where the Franks and the Van Daans (later joined by dentist Dussel) spent more than two haunted years. Although cut off from home and friends, she has her love for her father, Otto (Joseph Giglia), her precious diary, and, later, her friendship with Peter (Zak Evanicki) to keep her going.
The familiar trials are there, though, too—Anne’s strained relationship with her mother (Vanessa Radovan), the lack of enough food, the tensions of living in such a cramped space, in fear, with the sometimes quarrelsome Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan (Herb Stump and Monica McIntire). Occasional radio broadcasts tell the occupants (and us) the good and bad news of the war, as do the family’s protectors, Miep (Allison Pinkerton) and Mr. Kraler (Steve Kozlowski).
For the most part, the production (directed by Kelly Wynn Woodland) is straightforward but not quite as effective as one would hope, although the story itself is so powerful there are still times when the emotions well up. The underwritten nature of some of the characters (especially Anne’s sister, Margot, along with Miep and Kraler) is a missed opportunity. And one piece of advice: The music used here too often is just intrusive. It might be fine during scene changes, but some of the more important moments of the play would touch us more deeply without it.
That said, Anne’s ever enduring story will still reach into your heart. The production continues through May 22; for tickets call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com.