Monday, October 08, 2007

The Diary of Anne Frank at San Jose Stage Company

The sad thing about attending a production of a play like The Diary of Anne Frank is that you know exactly how it's going to end. As you watch these people stuck in this little loft for years, trying their best to get along and stave off the terror that lurks in every corner of their minds, you know that in the end it's all an exercise of futility. The Nazis will come. The Nazis will throw them in trains like cattle and torture them and kill them.

So, for me, each time I have seen a production of this play, I get a tear in my eye from the opening curtain onward. What made this production particularly poignant for me was that the actors and director were able to find the humor in the script. As the family and their "guests" tried to survive this ordeal they often used laughter as a means of coping. I found this very touching. In particular, Mark Messersmith and Marie Shell really did a great job with this. Both characters ( Hermann van Daan and Mrs. van Daan) as portrayed my Messersmith and Shell were vibrant, funny, desperate, and so human in their struggle to manage the horror that had become their lives.

The entire cast was wonderful. Randall King did a wonderful job as Otto Frank, showing us his stoic patience and his sense of responsibility and duty that never wavered. Janis Bergmann as his wife Edith was wonderful as the long suffering mother who wanted so badly to take the pain away from her family but was helpless to do so. I don't have time to name everyone here, but the whole cast is wonderful, the direction sensitive yet energetic, and the sound and lights are often stunning. I highly recommend that you go see this show. It will remind you that there are real human beings whose lives are unalterably affected by any act of political or social aggression. Hopefully more of us can keep this in mind the next time we have to choose our own leaders.

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