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Revisiting Anne Frank

The Rep’s Beautiful Production of a Timeless Classic

Oct. 30, 2012
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A haunting testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of impending tragedy, The Diary of Anne Frank has lost none of its timeless appeal. The drama’s unobtrusive simplicity quietly displays the unavoidable distress and hidden fears behind the day-to-day existence of a group of ordinary people forced into hiding under the threat of impending disaster. None of them is particularly noble, some are querulous and self-absorbed, but all rely upon that final vestige of human dignity inherent in all people. The cynical climate of opinion of our own times has barely made a dent in the quiet power of this touching play.

The Milwaukee Rep’s beautiful new production, directed by K.J. Sanchez, features a superlative cast in performances that might serve as a master class in ensemble acting. Laura Gordon and Jonathan Gillard Daly are superb as Mr. and Mrs. Frank, as are Lee E. Ernst and Deborah Staples as the fractious van Daans. J. Alexander Coe provides an almost-budding love interest with the maturing Anne Frank, played with an excess of zeal by Lauren Hirte in a performance that needs to be reigned in. The romantic episodes are touching, but the concluding dialogue by Hirte needs more of a literary bent and greater conviction. Great performances by Emily Berman as Anne’s sister and Larry Neumann Jr. as the irascible Mr. Dussel, along with longtime favorite James Pickering as Mr. Kraler, round out the cast.

The tension of the impending Nazi threat and the false ray of hope are barely alluded to by the principals, but looms constantly over the audience, giving this delicate play its quiet strength and timeless universality.

Through Dec. 2 at the Quadracci Powerhouse.


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