“The Diary of Anne Frank,” written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, adapted by Wendy Kesselman, is a must see. The Seneca Community Players’ show is directed by Eric Jansen with the scenes of this poignant play taking place more than 70 years ago but remaining so relevant today. Jansen infuses great thought and perspective into the performance noting his goal was “in our own difficult times that the message from the diary of a young girl ‘… in spite of everything, people are truly good at heart’ resonates with the audience.” And it does.
The play opens tonight at The Partridge Building at 115 Fall St. in Seneca Falls. The diary is the story of Anne — a young Jewish girl and aspiring writer hiding from the Nazis during their WWII occupation of Holland. Anne’s diary is a devastating and relatable coming-of-age story, kept safe by a family friend, Miep Gies. Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was the sole survivor of the Holocaust, hiding in the secret annex of the spice factory. The play follows the eight inhabitants of that secret annex from the time the Frank and VanDaan families go into hiding on July 6, 1942, until their discovery, arrest and deportation in August and September of 1944. Told through the eyes of its teenage author, this is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad and touching story. One that reaches us all, inspires us and implores us to, as written in Anne’s diary, “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
The star of the show, playing Anne Frank, is Union Springs sophomore Emma DeGroff. At 15, Emma has some impressive experience under her belt in both dancing and musical theater. Her smile and energy are contagious and perfectly Anne.
The entire cast brings past experience with them and audiences will enjoy seeing Seneca Community Players favorites and some new comers. Steve Mitchell plays Otto Frank; Susie Cornett plays Edith Frank; Madison Yearsley plays Margot Frank; Wendy Varrichio-Fletcher plays Petronella VanDann; Dan Chacchia plays Hermann VanDann; Juan Espana plays Peter VanDann; John King plays Mr. Dussel; Zachary Cornett plays Mr. Kraler, Brittany Hammond plays Miep and the Dutch Secret Police are played by Russell Brewer and William Webster. There is even a live cat that joins the stage. And by the end I am left caring for each of the cast members deeply.
Audience members will enjoy the intimate setting of the theater; the stage is visible from three sides with seats very close to the action. The design is intentional, I learned, to help the audience feel the tightness of the living quarters.
The seating is general admission and the theater is handicapped accessible via an elevator. Each performance seats 125 and the show runs approximately two hours and 10 minutes, followed by an optional talk-back session with the cast that is open to all.
Through the use of sounds and lights as well as voiceovers from off stage, the scene is set and I found myself leaning in to see what would unfold next. Anne and her diary were together and central to the story, and there is a tension about the diary from the others. In the audience we are grateful for the diary, for it alone offered us this glimpse into ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. The message remains relevant today. Get your ticket, grab a friend, taking in this show will be time well spent.