By Greta Weiner
Photography used by permission of Albuquerque Little Theater, credit to Randy Talley Photography
I was prepared to severely critique The Albuquerque Little Theater’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank”. They couldn’t possibly impress me, a Jew who read the diary, and a docent who worked at the Anne Frank House traveling exhibit two out of the three times it has been here in Albuquerque. I mean, I know Anne Frank. I know her well.
Albuquerque Little Theater surprised me. Delightfully so. My overall impression was how professional the production was and how well the actors performed. It was obvious that they knew this precious subject matter had to be done right. And they were able to bring a tear to my eye. It’s been a long time since I cried about Anne Frank. Thank you Director James Cady for the essence of this play. The set was truly amazing and cleverly done with sharp angles and small spaces to really let you get the feeling of the cramped space they all shared. Kudos to Ryan Jason Cook.
Annelise Wall literally breathed life into Anne Frank for me. It’s hard to think that a young girl was in those circumstances, and Annelise Wall’s depiction of Anne Frank, was exquisite. She was bratty, she was insightful, she was angry, fearful, boisterous and endearing. One minute she’s mocking Mr. Van Daan, and the next she’s wishing Peter had something to believe in. And the whole while, Ms. Wall solidifies the relationship between Anne and her father. Hard to believe that this role is her debut at Albuquerque Little Theater. It’s also hard to believe that she is Anne Frank’s age, only fourteen years old.
Mario Cabrera makes you forget you are watching a play and he becomes Otto Frank. So much so, that you are positive he has played Otto Frank in every production live or on film! It’s like he was meant to be in this role. As Otto Frank, Cabrera makes Otto’s affection for his daughter palpable, whether he is schooling her, scolding her or celebrating her.
Also debuting at Albuquerque Little Theater is Alec Squires as Peter Van Daan. Hard to believe this young man is a senior at Albuquerque Academy! Squires does a great job of playing Peter. First shy and full of angst and later a softer more vulnerable young man. He did a great job. Another young person cooped up for a few years, Squires depiction is spot on as Peter matures during the production.
There was one time in the show that I felt that just didn’t work in the play. The makeup after the intermission was too heavy and pronounced. I realize that it was to let you know that time had gone by and that they were thin from sharing rations meant for three, among eight people. But on several of the cast, the makeup was so dark that it detracted, rather than enhanced the experience.
There were several poignant scenes. The Chanukah celebration, when Anne tells Peter she wishes he had something to believe in, and the joyous news of the Allied invasion on D Day. All precious moments made more precious by knowing their fate.
The entire ensemble worked well together, allowed you to suspend reality and immerse yourself into a moment of time, when the Nazi’s were around the corner, good friends were trying to help hide you, and through it all, there still were celebrations.
If it’s been awhile since you too cried for Anne Frank, take some time in the next two weeks to go see her and remember.
The Diary of Anne Frank
Albuquerque Little Theater
April 15th – May 1st
Adapted by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
Directed by James Cody
Annelise Wall – Anne Frank
Mario Cabrera – Otto Frank
Fabianna Borghese – Edith Frank
Amy Cundall – Margo Frank
Philip J. Shortell – Mr. Van Daan
Coleen McClure – Mrs. Van Daan
Alec Squires – Peter Van Daan
Michael Weppler – Mr. Kraler
Janine O’Neil – Miep Gies
Dehron Foster – Albert Dussel