The Diary of Anne Frank
by San Diego Junior Theatre

Jenna Selby. Photo by Daniel Baird.For two years they lived in hiding from the Nazis, careful not to make a sound during the day when employees worked below them. One noise, one cough, one slip could give them all away. And that would mean being taken to the concentration camps of which they’d already begun hearing about the deaths – and the gas used to kill so many of their friends.

San Diego Junior Theatre’s production draws us into their suffocating environment from the moment we enter their small theatre space at their La Jolla location, thanks in large part to Tony Cucuzzella’s set. We find ourselves sitting inside the tiny attic apartment with them. The slanted ceilings rise up and enclose us all along the perimeter. A typical attic-type collection of odds and ends circa 1940s is perched in the rafters or collecting dust. We feel the small confines more and more as the months wear on them and the tensions among them rise. Their lives and experiences were recorded in the diary of a young teenage girl with a flair for writing. She would die at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just weeks before Allied forces liberated it. Through her diary, Anne’s life and her thoughts would continue to touch millions.

Jenna Selby portrays Anne, a playful, talkative, fidgety, moody girl with little patience, but with a huge heart that we see as she brightens everyone’s Hanukkah with some clever and thoughtful gifts. As the months wear on, we see her transform into a young woman who finally begins to make peace with her mother, bond with her much more reserved, introverted, emotionally vulnerable elder sister Margot (portrayed so nicely by Devon Hollingsworth), and charmingly initiate a relationship with the boy living with them, the socially awkward Peter van Daan (Morgan Hollingsworth). The two of them share a great date scene in his attic room as Peter faces his nervousness and Anne, a little nervous and excited herself, tries to put him at ease.

Rissa Dickey and Joshua Herren. Photo by Daniel Baird.Joshua Herren plays Otto Frank, Anne’s beloved father, who tries his best to get his family through the nightmare. Joshua’s love and tenderness for Anne and his wife is evident every moment, as is the mixture of fear and frustration he feels in his efforts to keep his family from harm. Rissa Dickey is heartbreaking as his wife Edith. Her fear is more pronounced, her dread constantly on the verge of overwhelming her. The threads on which her sanity hangs come partly undone when young Anne makes her preference for her father clear. The threads completely unravel in the riveting scene when she awakens to find Mr. van Daan eating the others’ food rations, Mrs. Frank growing almost hysterical as her pent-up stress is forced outward, demanding that the van Daan family leave their hiding place.

Krisnoff Sam Padua is Mr. van Daan, and his devastating feeling of guilt upon being caught stealing food from the others is stark as he sits there, nearly speechless but for occasional numb apologies, knowing how futile they are. He clearly wishes he could go off and be alone in his misery, but of course there is nowhere to go, unless they do leave and face the Nazis. Madeleine Barker offers a portrayal of Mrs. van Daan that is incredibly insightful and genuine throughout. In the pivotal scene, her embarrassment for her husband and fear that they might be turned out to certain death is palpable. So different from the outwardly confident and flirty woman wrapped in her beloved fur coat (later wrenched from her in order to raise money) who entered the apartment months before. Elsewhere, Jordan Bunshaft is great as the often amusingly disgruntled dentist Albert Dussel who is not used to children, and Jackie Thorton is the kindly Miep Gies who is one of their only contacts with the outside world, at times delicately delivering sad news of their friends, at other times lifting their spirits with the hope brought by the D-Day invasion.

After directing last year’s highly successful production of To Kill a Mockingbird, Glynn Bedington again demonstrates great skill in presenting the most iconic, powerful dramas of our time.

Performs March 21 - 30, 2008

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Photo by Daniel Baird.

Mrs. van Daan: Madeleine Barker
Albert Dussel: Jordan Bunshaft
Edith Frank: Rissa Dickey
Otto Frank: Joshua Herren
Margot Frank: Devon Hollingsworth
Peter van Daan: Morgan Hollingsworth
Mr. van Daan: Krisnoff Sam Padua
Anne Frank: Jenna Selby
Miep Gies: Jackie Thorton

Director: Glynn Bedington
Production Manager/Set Design/Lighting Design: Tony Cucuzzella
Costume Loft Manager/Costume Design: Cynthia Carvajal
Choreography: Guyanna Bedington
Stage Manager: Carmen Quinones


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