|Sarah Pansing and Rob Stuart|
Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw / Hale Centre Theatre
Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 14th.
" While pretty much everyone knows the story of Anne Frank and that her life didn't end happily, the play The Diary of Anne Frank is still a deeply engaging and moving yet ultimately heart wrenching story of lost hope and the unspeakable consequences of Hitler's rise to power. Hale Centre Theatre's production of this classic factual story is exceptional, with a superb cast and concise and well thought out direction that are a tribute to Anne, her family, and the millions of others who lost their lives in the Nazi death camps....Director M. Seth Reines has done an exceptional job. His staging heightens the tension by creating realistic movement that allows the bickering and quarreling to grow naturally from the situations yet also instills the proceedings with the hope that the war will end and their lives will go back to normal....Sarah Pansing is simply sensational as Anne. The excitement she portrays when they first move into the attic, as if it's like being on an adventurous vacation, and the shifting thoughts and feelings Anne experiences as her body changes, are portrayed superbly...The only issue I can find is that Pansing is slightly older than Anne was at the time the family was in hiding. Other than that very small quibble, there isn't one false move, gesture, or expression in her performance.
Otto Frank is the realist, matter of fact, quiet, and loving disciplinarian, and Rob Stuart's performance is as even measured as the man he is portraying. ..It is an appropriately restrained portrayal but Stuart's final monologue delivery is an emotional mind numbing experience that packs a wallop.
The rest of the cast make a well-honed ensemble of distinguished and rich performances that require constant interactions with and reactions to the other characters, since every actor is on stage almost throughout the entire play. ..Brian Daily's set design perfectly instills the sense of claustrophobia that having so many people living in such a small space creates. ..With Reines' excellent direction, Pansing's rich performance as Anne, and an entire cast that embody their roles with a deep clarity, Hale's The Diary of Anne Frank is a deeply moving and emotional experience. Even if you know how Anne's story ends, this production should warrant a visit to be reminded of Anne and how her diary represents so many other people who lived in fear but always had the hope that freedom would eventually come, even if it never did." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"... "The Diary of Anne Frank"...Told through the compassionate idealistic pen of a teenage Jewish girl, the novel adapted onto the stage was hauntingly optimistic. Reinvigorated with previously omitted diary entries--the version Hale presented--it shimmers...re-witnessing the personal details of our painful collective past can also be good for the soul. Hale Center Theatre's "Diary of Anne Frank" is that kind of good...It was inescapable, affecting theatre. Within in the cramped confines of a purposely crowded set, Anne (Sarah Pansing) journeyed from unexpected exuberance--almost hyperactivity--to a woeful "songbird whose wings have been ripped out" in the course of two hours....the very capable cast of Frank and Van Daan families soldiered on in hiding in occupied Amsterdam. A very sober but loving Otto (Rob Stuart), Anne's father, accepted if not encouraged her impish attitude that so irritated the others. Love interest Peter (Nicholas Gunnell) played particularly well the self-conscious, puberty-fueled and twitter-pated role opposite Anne. ..Anne's mother's (Bonnie Beus Romney) distress, over the enormity of the family's predicament and about her relationship with Anne, was equally palpable....The sad reality of last night's filled-in Anne Frank history is that it meant living the probable death of people who had crept into our bones, seeped into our hearts. Because of Anne's 'new' anecdotes and less-reserved admissions, responses to her were more lively and unfiltered, too. Rather than the Holocaust robbing a faceless, historical race, it killed a bigger chunk of each of us. Right here in the red velvet seats at Hale, as it should be with living a slice of history too horrific to risk repeating, a segment of our own hearts stopped beating." -Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)