The Diary of Anne Frank
Charleston Stage Company
Running through Feb. 18
The Dock Street Theatre
135 Church St.
You’d have to be made of hard stuff not to be moved by the story of Anne Frank. A good theatrical production makes her story even more moving, and Charleston Stage’s well-rounded production provides an enlightening evening at the Dock Street.
In 1947, Anne’s father published her wartime journal entries as The Diary of a Young Girl. This stage adaptation, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1955.
From July 1942 to August 1944, in German-occupied Amsterdam, the Jewish Frank family avoided deportation to German work camps by hiding in the three-story annex of Otto Frank’s business. They were joined by the Van Pels family and later by Fritz Pfeffer. For two years they tried to wait out the war on a highly regimented schedule of silence and academic studies — staying invisible yet keeping their minds active. Eventually, though, the group was discovered and arrested by the German SD, then dispersed to concentration camps. Anne’s father, Otto, was liberated from Auschwitz in 1945, finding himself the only survivor from the annex.
Missy Gossett as Miep Gies, the dedicated worker who risks her life to help conceal the group and keep them alive, grows into her role after a shaky start, but her grim expression never really changes. Jason Rector plays Peter perfectly, as a painfully awkward young man who expresses himself through embarrassed shouts and tantrums.
Gabriella Terranova is remarkable as Anne. She (with the help of director Marybeth Clark) does a wonderful job of portraying Anne as a regular teenager of the time without making her seem like a saint. Anne’s lighter side is sometimes forgotten; after all, at the heart of this story is the tale of a childhood being stolen — of a girl who misses movies and friends and riding her bike, who argues with her mother, who develops a crush on the boy she’s hiding with, and who can’t wait to go back to school once the war is over. Anne is a girl who confronts her situation as best she can, often with humor and spirit. Of course she is frightened sometimes, and angry, and resentful of adults. Terranova handles Anne’s many teenage complexities with skill, competence, and aplomb.
Mr. Dussel the dentist is an unlikeable and obnoxious character, providing a lot of conflict to the mix. Anne referred to him in her diary as “an old-fashioned disciplinarian.” David Ardrey portrays Dussel’s annoying qualities to the tee, if a little too much.
As Edith Frank, Linda Eisen is incredibly stiff. The choice, if such it is, does work at times, appearing as discomfort and fear. But her character’s emotion never shows through; even in her climactic scene, she remains rigid, as if she’s afraid to follow through with her performance.
Terry Terranova as Otto Frank is likewise a bit stiff, but he injects enough warmth into his performance to compensate and appear as a slightly awkward, good-hearted man who was thrust into a leadership position with too much responsibility.
Jan Gilbert does a good job of playing Margot Frank as the quiet-as-a-mouse “good” daughter, and Michael Hamburg and Janice Horst as the Van Daans play off each other very well.
Marybeth Clark’s direction is crisp. The set and lighting design by Stefanie Christensen, period costumes by Barbara Young, props by Michael Christensen, and subtle sound design by Zack Knudson all contribute to the authenticity, changing moods, and humanity of the story, making for an overall memorable production by Charleston Stage.