Yellow Tree has gathered a strong cast of favorites and newcomers to the theater, under the direction of Jon Cranney who directed Yellow Tree's last show, The Glass Menagerie. He brings a similar style, raw and natural, to this much larger cast. In fact, it's one of the largest casts I've seen at Yellow Tree. Eight people living in a few small attic rooms is crowded, and ten people on the cozy Yellow Tree stage is too. But it never seems overwhelmingly crowded, everyone moves around the space smoothly and efficiently, even in the quick scene changes. The star of the show is Ali Daniels as Anne Frank. As my friend The Playbill Collector noted, for a college graduate she's a very believable teenager (and she looks a little like a young Judy Garland in braids). Spirited and wide-eyed, but with the wisdom of a child, she successfully conveys Anne's essence, both in conversation with others and in reciting passages from Anne's diary. I was reminded of the History Theater's Coco's Diary this spring, although obviously Anne had a much more difficult life than Coco. But both are insightful observations of the world around them.
|the cast of The Diary of Anne Frank on the set|
(Anne and her family had to remove their
shoes during the day to reduce noise)
As usual, Yellow Tree makes the most of their small stage, transforming it into the cramped but cozy quarters of the families. In a set designed by Rick Polenek, this place that they called home for two years comes to life. Photos from the real location and clever staging help us to imagine what the real hiding place looked and felt like.
Anne Frank's story is a powerful one, an important one to remember as it gives us an entry into the wider tragedy of the Holocaust. Yellow Tree does it beautifully; it's an entertaining and moving evening of theater (playing now through October 21). It has inspired me to read the book (I can't remember if I ever did), and the next time I'm passing through Amsterdam, I'll be sure to visit the museum that is now in the location of her hiding place. The one bright spot in Anne's story is that this wish came true: “I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”