A painting is not complete until the final brush stroke is laid on the canvas, and so it was with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank. This production utilizes Wendy Kesselman’s 1997 adaption of the 1955 play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. This script fails at times to deliver some of the intensity and gravity one would expect from a story of this nature. However, the final scene featuring Otto Frank’s (Barry Mulholland) monologue revealing the fates of each character is beautifully written, performed and staged and left an indelible mark on me, and, judging by the inspired standing ovation, much of the audience.
Courtney Lucien’s portrayal of a playful, energetic, inspired and headstrong Anne Frank was delightful. She did well to remind the viewer that despite Anne Frank’s momentous place in history and literature, at the time Anne was a 13-year old girl who was just as passionate and anxious about her development as a young woman as she was about the atrocities taking place in the world in which she was living.
Barry Mulholland’s depiction of Otto Frank offered the perfect compliment to Anne’s energetic presence. Mulholland’s performance was the anchor for each element of the story. It was a perfectly executed balance between a father who refused to let the darkness and terror of the Holocaust infiltrate the joyful spirit of his daughter and a guiding force who fully understood the scale of the impending threat.
Supporting performances by Kyle Brumley (Peter Van Daan) and Maggie Lou Rader (Miep Gies) stood out to me as some of the most enjoyable. The entire ensemble was strong and each played their role well in depicting the many tensions and issues that arise from such tight living quarters in such dire circumstances.
The set (by scenic designer Justen N. Locke) was visually compelling and well done. From furniture to floors, muted shades of brown help age and locate the setting appropriately. While the look of the living environment was achieved, the space didn’t quite articulate the potentially claustrophobic environment resulting from eight people in a four-room hideaway. At times, the freedom of movement made the living situation feel almost comfortable.
Overall, this production accomplished delivering its message: the denial of hate and fear, along with the insistence and invincibility of love and tolerance. This message, just as relevant and important today, was delivered with gusto in the most impactful moment and lasting picture from this production, its final scene. I will not give it away, but all I can say is it was executed phenomenally through its staging, lighting effects, direction (by Jeremy Dubin) and performance. The final brush stroke was a brilliant one and for me, reason alone to recommend anyone to see Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank.
CSC’s production The Diary of Anne Frank runs through October 1st. Tickets are available via their website at cincyshakes.com.