WCT presents a strong ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’

Written by David M. Loza, Contributor

Whittier Community Theatre (WCT) continued their 94th season by celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII by bringing to life one of the best-known diaries and its tragic story for all to share.

Directed by Lenore Stjerne, and produced by Rosalva Reza; “The Diary of Anne Frank” By Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich offers audience members a rare glimpse into the world of Anne Frank on stage; who she was, how she thought, and how her story tragically ended.

Audience members are first introduced to Otto Frank immediately after WWII ended in Amsterdam. Mr. Frank, followed by Miep Gies, are looking through the hidden attic Mr. Frank and the others were hiding in. As Mr. Frank instructs Mrs. Gies to burn all the letters, she finds Anne’s diary, which brings Mr. Frank to tears as he begins to recount the tragic story of their experience in the attic from Anne’s perspective.

While escaping from Hitler and his Nazi soldiers in 1942, the Frank family packed up with as many clothes as they could put on their backs and moved into Otto Frank’s work attic in hopes of hiding from the Nazi’s and avoiding the Holocaust.

In the hidden attic another family, the Van Daan’s, soon joins them. Later on Mr. Dussel, a local dentist joins them. Together in the concealed storage attic, they are all forced to live and function as one big family with limited means until one horrible day when they are betrayed and are forced into concentration camps leaving only one survivor, Otto Frank, Anne’s father, to share the experience and to offer Anne’s gift to the world, her person diary.

In her diary and on the stage, Anne talks about her life in the attic, her roommate Mr. Dussel, and the struggles she had with her mother. She mentions her nightmares of being taken by the Nazi’s, and the rest of the occupants in the attic. She shares her thoughts, ideas and opinions, including her infatuation with Peter Van Daan, the son of the Van Daan’s.

Richard De Vicarriis known for playing Mr. Mushnik in “Little Shop of Horrors” earlier this season stars as Otto Frank. Known for his versatile acting abilities, De Vicariis did a great job at bringing to life Otto Frank in this performance. There were times where his accent made it difficult to understand what he was saying, but his overall acting made up for it.

Patty Rangel, also known for “Little Shop of Horrors” as Mrs. Luce, brings to life Edith Frank. She did a great job portraying her character, especially when she breaks down crying, during one of the dramatic scenes in the play.

Brenna Hanlen, who has been performing since she was four-years-old, played Margot Frank. Hanlen portrayed Margot well, but she would have been stronger if she had more dialogue to develop her character.

James J. Cox and Joan Meissenburg portrayed Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan. Cox, who has recently appeared in “Captive” in Pasadena, did an amazing job as Mr. Van Daan. His scene where he is caught stealing bread definitely was a crowd favorite, and Meissenburg, who has been seen in “Christmas Analysis” did a good job at portraying Mrs. Van Daan. Although Cox did a marvelous job as Mr. Van Daan, he would have played a better Otto Frank.

John Francis and Casey Morlet portrayed the kind friends Mr. Kraler and Miep Gies. Francis, known for his acting and directing in WCT, and Morlet, known for “All My Sons,” did a good job at portraying their characters. Francis was hard to hear at times, but his lines were executed well, and Morlet’s acting was believable, especially towards the ending.

Tim Heaton, who’s well known for “The Foreigner” and “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” did a great job at bring to life Mr. Dussel on stage. His rocky friendship with Anne Frank was noticeable, and both their frustrations were easy visible on stage.

Wesley Mathews, who is known for his years in musical theater, portrayed Peter, the son of the Van Daan’s. Mathews began the first act visibly shaky, but picket it up and ended strong during the second act.

Gracie Lacey, known for other productions as “Sweeney Todd” and “Rent,” did an incredible job at capturing the jovial, but frustrated character of Anne Frank. Her lines were well read, her acting was very believable, and her character was well developed.

Over all, the production is worth watching. The set and the costumes are very well done, and the voiceover by Lacey as Anne Frank, is a perfect touch to carry the audience members through a rollercoaster of emotions. Just like she did in life.

Besides having strong characters with very little lines, the production serves its purpose and will no doubt be a hit for all to enjoy and to learn from.

Based on “Diary of A Young Girl” by Anne Frank, the production brought many adults and children together to remember a real life tragedy that happened not to long ago.

The audience had their shares of laughs, suspense and silence especially during the ending that left many with a knot on their throats.

While the ending left all in silence, it would have been more jaw intense to physically see Nazi soldiers enter the attic before the lights went off.

The production continues it’s run on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., through Nov. 21, with a matinee on Nov. 15 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are sold for $15 adults and $12 for students and seniors.

For more information go to: http://www.whittiercommunitytheatre.org/index.htm or in person at: 7630 S. Washington Ave. Whittier, CA 90602 (562) 696-0600