Despite a massive leak back stage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre on Friday night, the show went on. The Diary of Anne Frank is the infamous true story of a teenage Jewish girl who is forced to go into hiding with her family in Amsterdam during World War II.
The stress builds as the eight people share a tiny living space and limited food supply for more than a year. In hiding they were oddly protected from the horrors that where unfolding in the city around them, but they had their own struggles. To live every moment of your life, especially during your adolescence, under the scrutiny of others, is its own special kind of hell. Under those circumstances, I think anyone would be pushed to the breaking point.
The cast includes many newcomers who, along with IRT regulars like Constance Macy, create a powerful picture of life in the secret annex. The play depends heavily on the chemistry of the cast, so any weak link would have hindered the production. Instead, each actor brings their best to the roles and together they create a tight-knit group bonded by their awful circumstances. From Craig Wroe’s kind-hearted and steadfast Mr. Frank to Paul Kiernan’s desperate Mr. van Daan, each player was in synch.
Rebecca Buller embodies the over-the-top emotions of a teenager as the flirtatious and dramatic Anne Frank. Her flamboyant ways seem trying at first, as I’m sure they did for the real people she lived with, but as the seriousness of the situation increases, her bravado provides a welcome respite from the tense atmosphere.
Rob Johansen is perfect as Mr. Dussel, the single dentist who joins the Franks and van Daans in hiding. He demonstrates the man’s restrained inner turmoil with deft expertise. With the simplest awkward joke or even the inability to say anything at all, Johansen makes the audience feel his pain.
The production’s score, provided by Andrew Hopson was almost a character in and of itself. Each striking piece set the mood and carried the show along beautifully. The period costumes and set both enhance the show as well. The stage becomes an old building, divided into small rooms portrays the strange mixed feelings of claustrophobia at times and coziness at others.
One of the most touching scenes in the show is the group’s simple dinner on the first night of Hanukkah. It was a wonderful reminder to find joy in the simplest things. But just when you forget, for a second, how dire their lives have become, something reminds you that war never takes a holiday.
Don't Miss the Show
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "The Diary of Anne Frank" runs until Thursday, Feb. 24 on IRT's Main Stage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com
Photos Courtesy of the Indiana Repertory Theatre