Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Moxie’s “Diary of Anne Frank” More Than Relevant After All These Years.

From 1933 to 1945 under the Nuremberg Laws Hitler’s Nazi Party began rounding up opposition groups to his Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party. Individual freedoms, freedom of press, speech and assembly were all curtailed.

Jews were considered racially inferior/second class citizens. They were not allowed to attend public schools, theatre, cinema, or vacation resorts. 

They were rounded up from Berlin to France, Poland, Italy, Lithuania and Western Ukraine.
Eddie Yaroch and Amy Perkins (Photo: Sean Fanning)
In 1934 the Frank Family moved from Germany to Amsterdam where Otto Frank had a business. They thought that the Netherlands’ neutrality would be a safe haven for them. In 1940 the Germans occupied Denmark and southern Norway.

All Dutch Jews were required to wear Yellow Stars of David on their clothing. In 1942 Margot Frank was ordered to report for relocation to a labor camp. That same year the Frank’s went into hiding.

For the better part of two years, (from age 13 to age 15) Anne Frank’s life became an open book. When she and her family were forced into hiding as a result of the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam in 1942 Anne undaunted, made regular entries into an autograph book, later turned into a diary, given to her by her father Otto, on her 13th birthday.
Cast of "The Diary of Anne Frank (Photo: Sean Fanning)
The last entry in the diary was made Aug. 1, 1944. On that day in 1944, Anne and the seven other people hiding in the secret annex of her father’s warehouse in Amsterdam were arrested. Following their arrest, Miep Gies, Otto Frank’s secretary and later their link to the outside world, found Anne’s diary pages strewn all over the annex floor.

The Nazi’s, in their haste to round up the Jews, left the papers behind. Miep gathered them up and put them away for safekeeping, having never read them. After the war she gave them to Otto, who later had them published in what is now known as "The Diary of Anne Frank".

Several versions of the diary known as a), b), and c) have been published. From the first known published account in 1947 to the present, much more has been revealed about the contents in the first papers.
Katelyn Katz and Eddie Yaroch and Amy Perkins (Photo:Daren Scot)
Originally, Otto Frank felt the need to omit accounts of Anne’s sexuality and entries including the ones about her mother and her feelings towards her. Anne was openly hostile toward her mother. “Yesterday mother and I had another run in.” “I finally told Daddy that I love him more than I do Mother.”

Her writing’s address in detail the turbulence, fear, anxiety, hopes, claustrophobic sharing of space, strengths, weaknesses and dreams of a young spunky rather self centered, spoiled, fun filled thirteen-year-old girl who still felt the world was her oyster. But more than anything, they give insight into a spirited thirteen-year-old going on forty- year -old mind.

“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything that people are truly good at heart”.

The latest incarnation is the play based on the book "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl". This revival is by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and adapted by Wendy Kesselman.

Katelyn Katz and Nick Lux (Photo: Sean Fanning)
The play opened in Boston and then Broadway on Dec. 4th 1997 and ran for 208 performances. Most of the critics were critical of Anne’s budding sexuality being inserted into a newer revival and the show sank in the wake of its own weight.      

Moxie Theatre, under the deft direction of Kym Pappas, and with dramaturge Eli Chung who managed all the Hebrew pronunciations of the Chanukah blessings perfectly, “The Diary of Anne Frank” hums along without a hitch until three young Nazi stormtroopers break up their one happy moment of finally enjoying some fresh strawberries Miep had just delivered, and march each and every one of the occupants out to the waiting cattle cars and to the camps.  

Pappas painstakingly takes us through the daily struggles of children doing their homework; needing help in French. While the women cooking with whatever rations of food they had and the men read books brought into the annx by Miep. Light moments, dark fears and individual insecurities were encountered as they went through their day, quietly in stocking feet, as to not give themselves awy to the workers below. 

From Anne having to share her small bedroom with Mr. Dussel to the inescapable and horrific act of stealing a small piece of bread by Mr. van Daan because the rationing wasn’t doing it for him to celebrating the lighting of the Chanukah candles in a wooden Chanukiah whittled by Mr. van Daan, it is all there in black and white for the world to bear witness. 

Chanukah, the Jewish Holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt was a reminder that life goes on and in the case of the eight living, breathing in the same stale air, using the same loo and sharing whatever foods Miep  (an assuring Jamie Channel Guzman) could get with their rations, so to the eight human beings connecting, chose life.

Wendy Waddell, Jonathan Sachs and Katelyn Katz (Photo: Sean Fanning)
With a most competent cast in tow, the Frank Family consisted of Otto Frank, (an excellent Eddie Yaroch), Edith Frank, (Wendy Waddell at her all time high), Anne Frank (Katelyn Katz) and Amy Perkins as Margot Frank.

Others in hiding/living in the annex include a quirky and oft times selfish Mr. Dussel (Joe Paulson), a dentist in his past life. Paulson’s fussy and annoying Dussel is right on target and at odds with the others hiding food and arguing with everyone. 

Jonathan Sachs and Holly Stephenson are Mr. and Mrs. van Daan Frank’s business partner. Nick Lux is the van Daan son, Peter.

Lux is perfect as he pivots back and fourth struggling to stay away from Anne yet drawn to her feisty manner as she outright hangs on to him.  “I know very well he was my conquest, and not the other way around… I wanted a friend who would help me find my way again.” 

To the person each of the players, never leaving character even during intermission is perfectly portrayed out convincingly and truthfully.  Katelyn Katz, a fifteen year old who attends Canyon Crest Academy, is Anne’s alter ego. She comes across as a natural, just right for a spunky 13/ 14 year old.

She is bold, plucky, inquisitive and completely authentic in her every move including wearing a pair of red high heels brought to her my Miep on one of her visits. She dreams of becoming an actress one day or a writer as her entry reads:

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere thy can be quite alone with the heavens nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
                   "Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl"

Joe Paulson and Katelyn Katz (Photo: Daren Scott)
When the Frank’s enter the annex from the lobby of the theatre they file in with Otto in the lead (and looking eerily like photos of Mr. Frank), the tone is set. The van Daan family follows close behind taking their places in the annex.

Sean Fanning’s set is a bit more sprawling on Moxie’s long stage giving the appearance of being a much larger space than it really is. Lighting design by Chris Renda helps focus our attention to some of the little nooks and crannies of the oft -darkened living area. Lily Voon’s sound puts us right in the middle of the roundups and bombings and Jennifer Brawn-Giddings costumes are period right. 

One by one personalities emerge with some more outspoken as in the case of Holly Stephenson’s argumentative, selfish and protective Mrs. van Daan who cherishes a mink coat her late father once gave her and brought with her own chamber pot, to her shy and awkward and innocent son Peter, who managed to sneak in his pet cat Mouchi.

Mr. van Daan acts as peacemaker between his wife and the other’s in the annex his wife manages to offend. Without saying much Jonathan Sachs hunched over presence and sad sack look says it all as the browbeaten and helpless husband, who one time found love when he first met his wife.  

Wendy Waddell does just fine as Edith Frank. She carries the worries of the world on her shoulders and especially trying to reassure her daughters that they will be fine, to stay calm. She tends to favor Margot and shows a sense of hurt when Anne pushes her away to the preference of her father.

Eddie Yaroch couldn’t have been a more perfect choice as Otto Frank. Mild mannered and soft -spoken, Yaroch has the look and manners of a leader. Just his presence in the room demands respect and deference.

Amy Perkins does the best she can with the role of Margot, Anne's older sister.  She gets the least attention and the one we know the least about. We do know that the girls were separated when the Nazi’s took them away and she was the first of the sisters to die.

Six million Jews were displaced, starved, gassed or shot (Warsaw Ghetto, Babi Yar, the largest shooting massacre in the Holocaust to name a few of the more written about) in the German’s effort to rid the world of Jews.

Most were rounded up and sent to concentration camps where they awaited their fate and for the allies to finally acknowledge what was happening in Europe.

By 1945 there were more than 700,000 prisoners left in the camps. With the exception of Otto, the entire Frank family was either killed or died of diseases while waiting for the camps to be liberated.

After the war, Frank returned to the annex. In an emptionally charged, gut wrenching appearance, eyes welled in tears, with Anne’s diary as witness, Yaroch's,  Frank the only survivor,  offers up the fate of each of those in the annex  as they quietly exit the theatre:

Eddie Yaroch (Photo: Sean Fanning)
*On September 3rd1944 all eight are sent in a cattle car to Auschwitz. Once there, the men are separated from the women.

*On October 28, of the same year, Margo and Anne Frank are transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

*On January 6, 1945 Anne’s mother dies of starvation in Auschwitz. That same year the Russians liberate the remaining survivors in Auschwitz, including Otto Frank.

*In March 1945 Margo and Anne die of typhus in Bergen-Belsen. The camp was liberated by British troops on April 15th of that year.

*Over one million children perished in the Holocaust.

 *In 2017 neo-Nazi’s marched in Virginia shouting anti-Semitic slurs that were half assed explained away by the leader of the Free World.

As long as there are Holocaust deniers, and  anti-Semitism at an all time high right now as we speak, there will always be a need for theatre companies to produce this play and there will always be a need for audiences to see it.

I urge you see this one even if you’ve read the book, seen the movie or seen the play. We can never forget.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Dec. 17th
Organization: Moxie Theatre
Phone: 858.598.7620
Production Type: Drama
Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N. San Diego, CA 92115
Ticket Prices: $30.00
Photo: Daren Scott and Sean Fanning


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