How long could you survive in a tiny space with seven other people (three of them related) when the rules of the house are no shoes or talking (not even softly) for at least eight straight hours each day?
Anne Frank was 13 when she was sequestered with her parents and sister Margot in a secret annex above her father’s office in Amsterdam in an attempt to avoid detection by the Nazis. Soon they were joined by another family (here called the Van Daans) and their 15-year-old son Peter; later, dentist Mr. Dussel was added to the group.
Anne loved to write, and her diary of the two years these eight people spent in that tiny space, published by her father (the sole survivor) after the war, may have contributed more to worldwide understanding of the human tragedy of the Holocaust than any other document.
Anne Frank’s diary has been translated into more than 60 languages and has inspired films and plays. Vista’s Broadway Theater presents the original Broadway version (by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett) through Sept. 27. Kathy Brombacher directs.
This was quite an undertaking for the tiny theater, requiring a reconfiguration of the usual L-shaped seating pattern in order to allow for the larger requirements of the set. Kudos to Douglas Davis for the design that manages to fit everything in.
This was a harrowing time, full of fear and apprehension at the thought of discovery, yet this octet tried to create some semblance of a normal life.
Ted Leib and Crystal Davidson, as Otto and Edith Frank, bring the whole package of credible German accents and fine acting to this uneven production. They are the anchors around which the other characters revolve.
Katie Heniser, a good actor with fine voice projection, is excellent as Miep Gies, the young woman who kept the eight alive with food, news and friendship.
Rebecca Penner’s irrepressible Anne is charming, though like a typical 13-year-old, she has a tendency to rush her words and, as Mr. Van Daan would say, use too many of them.
Aidan Yayek’s Peter Van Daan makes a good foil for Anne, and it’s fun to watch them go from adversaries to friends to something a bit more.
The Van Daans are not like the Franks: apparently formerly wealthy, Mrs. Van Daan (Beverly Baker) is a snooty and rather annoying presence with a fondness for her fur coat that seems out of place in this situation. Jim Clevenger likes things the way he likes them and is short-tempered (especially about Anne), making cohabitation difficult.
Steven Oberman’s quirky dentist adds a bit of welcome comic relief with his fussbudget behavior.
Elena Trask as Margot and Doug Smith as Mr. Kraler (Miep’s boyfriend) are fine in their underwritten parts.
We all know how this story ends, but that doesn’t diminish its power. Though this isn’t the most consistent production, it’s important to be reminded of how little has changed since the last century.
“The Diary Of Anne Frank” plays through September 27, 2015 at The Broadway Theater, 340 East Broadway, Vista.
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm
Tickets: (760) 806-7905 or http://www.premiereforkids.com