Saturday, October 9, 2010

- Theater Review - The Diary of Anne Frank

Peoria Players continued their season with the Friday night opening of "The Diary of Anne Frank", just a few days after the 55th anniversary of the play's debut.

After more than half a century, this drama remains amazingly relevant and meaningful. 

It is, of course, the true story of eight Jews hiding from the Nazis in cramped quarters above an office in Amsterdam.  The intense 3 years is documented in her diary by the young girl, Anne Frank. 

During the period of hiding, Anne achieves physical maturity as well as a maturity beyond her years in  both character and spirit as she chronicles the human interactions around her.

This Peoria Players production, directed by  Charles Killen, provides an absolutely wonderful evening of theater.

Usually in these reviews, I try to single out the performances that I consider to be particularly noteworthy.
It is simply impossible to do so in regards to this production. 
There are ten actors on stage and each and every one delivers a performance that is very nearly perfect to the role.

Doug Orear as Otto Frank, is the patriarch of the entire group.  He opens the show with an emotional portrayal of the father's post-war return to the Amsterdam apartment, where he discovers his daughter's diary. 
Sally Hodge plays his dutiful wife Edith, who  finally explodes from the pressures of their confinement. 
Alexis Wraight plays their prim and perfect daughter Margot and Toni Franken shines as daughter and narrator, Anne.
Joining the Franks in hiding are the Van Daan family. 
Curt and Anita Rowden are superb as the parents, as is Nathan Apodac as their son and Anne's romantic interest, Peter.
Doug Day is extraordinary as the surly dentist, Dr. Dussel, and Aaron Ruder and Lanie Vogel round out the cast as Mr. Kraler and Miss Gies, who risk their own lives by assisting in the hiding of the group.

Oh yes, there is an eleventh character.  Xena Killen-Clardy  doesn't miss a cue as Mouschi the cat.  She plays the role with  true star quality.

Speaking of star quality, the program states that Toni Franken has been acting since the age of six.  With the stage presence that she brought to the title role in this production, we can only hope that she will continue her acting career for another sixty years.
I know that I will certainly anticipate her next appearance on a local stage!

On opening night, the house was somewhat light.  I know it is a bit tougher to sell a drama in the age of musicals.  But for those who want to see an entire ensemble of brilliant acting performances, this is the show for you. 

The standing ovation was truly deserved.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" runs through this weekend  at the theater in Lakeview Park and continues from October 14th through the 17th.

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