Sunday, March 3, 2019

REVIEW - "The Diary of Anne Frank" at Lubbock Community Theatre

Anne (Alyssa Steward) and Peter (Andrew MacPhie)
talk about their growing friendship in LCT's production
of The Diary of Anne Frank.
by Shane Strawbridge

In the waning moments of Lubbock Community Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne’s father Otto (played by Justin Deurmyer) delivers a beautiful and haunting monologue that sucks all of the air from the room. There isn’t a single eye, ear, or heart that isn’t turned 100-percent to the words that are coming from his mouth. It is a truly lovely moment of theatre. Unfortunately, you will have to endure the rest of the play to get there.

The Diary of Anne Frank is adapted by Wendy Kesselman, Albert Hackett, and Frances Goodrich from the book of the same name and follows the lives of the Frank, Van Daan, and Dussel families while they hid in an annex for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands before being discovered and apprehended in 1944. In the director’s note, Jay C. Brown hopes that “this small picture of the past opens up our eyes to what is going on in the present.” But this past isn’t menacing, it’s merely inconvenient. Under Brown’s direction, the world of Anne Frank, a WWII Nazi Germany, is nearly devoid of any visible danger. Yes, the characters talk about what is going on outside, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that there is any sort of peril based on the behavior of the people in this annex. This trip into Amsterdam is watered down and safe, doing little to open our eyes to anything other than the location of the exits.

Performances from the cast are uneven. As Anne, Alyssa Steward is appropriately youthful, na├»ve, and petulant. Unfortunately, it appears that this is her only setting, and it gets old rather quickly. Miranda Young as Anne’s sister Margot fairs slightly better, playing her emotions close to the vest with a subtle touch. While most of the rest of the cast fails to live up to these two, the finest performance comes from Kacey Colwell as Miep. She rarely appears onstage during the show, but her arrival signals a breath of fresh air, a respite from the bland doldrums the audience is living through along with Anne.

Technical elements are simple and functional. The set design by Mark Umstot is appropriately milquetoast (although someone should alert the cast they needn’t blend in with it), and it harbors the magical quality of creaking and squeaking the most when people are trying to be the quietest. Lights by Ginger Angstadt add a sepia tone to the stage, giving an immediate look of memory to the evening. The strongest part of the entire evening is sound design by Jim Bush who highlights music from Jun Iwasaki playing the “Auschwitz Violin” with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra to set an appropriately somber tone before the play begins. If only the rest of the evening were as beautiful.

The story of what happened to Anne Frank is extremely important to remember. It gives us a vivid and poignant look at the world of a young girl trying to cope with one of the most horrible periods of history. It is full of danger, optimism, adversity, romance, and betrayal. It is a historical treasure. What Lubbock Community Theatre is trying to do with this production is admirable, but you would be better off going to your local library to check out the book instead.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" runs through March 10 at Lubbock Community Theatre

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