Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK

Toby Zinman found EgoPo Classic Theater's THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK an excellent production of a terrible play.

Review: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK

By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer

EgoPo Classic Theater, under Lane Savadove’s direction, launches its Festival of Jewish Theater with The Diary of Anne Frank at the Prince Music Theater Cabaret. How do you review an excellent production of a terrible play? Especially when that play is iconic?  Well, here goes.

The story, as everyone knows, is about a 13-year-old Jewish girl who, with her parents and older sister, hides from the Nazis in an attic along with another family and a dentist. Eight people, living in fear and hunger, alert to every noise, getting on each other’s nerves. Many of the eight people are annoying, as people are; they are also brave and affectionate. Sometimes they are noble, sometimes ignoble. All the ingredients for a good drama.

Wendy Kesselman’s adaptation of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s dramatization of Anne Frank’s diary includes material originally excised by Anne’s father—references to his daughter’s burgeoning sexuality and her strained relationship with her mother. More good ingredients.

The problem is the diary itself: Basically we are listening to a teenage girl for two hours. She uses the most dreadfully hackneyed language, just as a 13-year-old would, which means the script is swamped by triteness. She gushes.  She stands on tippy-toe and yearns. She pries into adults' private lives.  She is rude and bratty and self-important, as teenage girls are. She deserves a good smack, but who would smack Anne Frank, the beloved martyr of Amsterdam?

Matthew Miller has created a set evocative of the claustrophobia and hideous lack of privacy of the attic. Natalie De La Torre has costumed the cast in excellent period clothes.

The entire cast does a fine job, creating three-dimensional personalities: Sara Yoko Howard as Anne, Rob Kahn as her father, Otto Frank, and Melanie Julian as her mother, Edith; K.O. DelMarcelle as her sister Margot, Johnny Smith as Peter, the son of the second family in the attic, Cindy Spitko as Miep, the Dutch woman who hides them, Brendan Norton as the dreadful dentist, Russ Widdall as the humiliated Mr. Van Daan, Mary Lee Bednarek as his wife, and Mark Cairns as Mr. Kraler. Hats off to them all.

EgoPo Classic Theater at the Prince Music Theater Cabaret, 1412 Chestnut St. Through Nov. 6. Tickets: $32  Information: 800-595-4TIX or www.egopo.org

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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