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Review: IRT's Diary of Anne Frank

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Rebecca Buller stars in 'The Diary of Anne Frank' at IRT.
  • Rebecca Buller stars in 'The Diary of Anne Frank' at IRT.

4.5 stars

Wendy Kesselman's 1998 adaptation of the acclaimed Diary of Anne Frank (1955) injects into the original more of the real Anne's actual diary passages and more dialogue about Nazi-era horrors.

What remains crucial to both, however, is the heroic personal struggle for freedom while living in suffocating isolation. The play opens as Anne's family enters the secret Amsterdam apartment where they will hide from the Nazis indefinitely. Despite the danger the Jewish family faces, 13-year-old Anne (Rebecca Buller) gushes about their great "adventure."

She is a girl who can't be contained. Her bitterness toward her mother, like her developing sexuality, must come out, in her diary and in dinnertime tantrums. Her mood swings provide a funny, touching portrait of what teens and parents endure.

Of course, Diary must also paint the more expansive, emotionally crushing landscape of individuals threatened by genocide. Director Janet Allen does so with a beguiling sort of dance in which the eight hideaways (a superb ensemble) come together to flirt and bicker, laugh and cry, and then break apart to seek corners of privacy.

Bill Clarke's apartment set, which opens to us like a doll's house cross section, makes it easy for us to feel Anne's initial thrill with the annex. Allen and Kesselman's remarkable achievement is that, through the course of the play, the charming confines become a powerful symbol of the Jewish ghetto and all methods by which destructive powers cut their targets off from humanity.

Indiana Repertory Theatre; through Feb. 24. Directed by Janet Allen.



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