Perhaps it is hope that is the overriding message in Anne Frank’s diary, hope that Anne held for more than two years as she and seven others hid from the Nazis.

The Diary of Anne Frank, the story of this young girl who hid from the invading Nazis from 1942 to August of 1944, is as relevant today as when she began writing her diary some 80 years ago.

The production of The Diary of Anne Frank, now at Westerly’s Granite Theater, is nearly flawless, powerful, and a production that simply should not be missed.

It is as compelling today as it was in 1955 when The Diary of Anne Frank arrived on Broadway, winning a Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, bringing to life the diary of this young girl, who aspired to become a writer, and indeed was after her diary was published in 1947.

Anne Frank came to Amsterdam with her family when they fled Hitler’s Germany. But in time Amsterdam too was overtaken by the Nazis, and Otto Frank’s business taken from him, forcing the family to go into hiding. Others joined them, eight people in all, and for more than two years were able to remain hidden from the Nazis. But in August of 1944 they were discovered, and all but Otto Frank died in the concentration camps.

I shall not remain insignificant, I shall work in the world for mankind…. I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living, even after my death.
Anne Frank

From the set, to the music, and mostly through the actors Anne’s diary and life in that small apartment come to life. It’s difficult to single out any actor for their performance because they were all exceptional. There is great passion and understanding of not only how important this play is as an historical piece, but also as, perhaps, a warning, a reminder that the past, unfortunately, can sometimes be repeated.

I believe that art has the capacity to give us a window into the soul of society, through theater, dance, the visual arts, and music. This performance surely gave us that, but also of the terror that all of Jewish society felt throughout Europe during World War II.

Maybe one of the most poignant scenes is the lighting of the Hannukah candles, worn down from use. And as the candles flickered, the room was filled with song, and once again a hopeful feeling.

The Granite Theatre’s Artistic Director, Erin Sousa-Stanley, directed this play masterfully. 

At the conclusion of the performance, I attended, and moderated, what they called a “Talk Back,” a conversation among the audience, cast, and representatives from a Holocaust organization and local synagogue. Many related stories of family members who had either survived the Holocaust or perished in the camps. Among those was cast member Suellen Mayer, who played Mrs. Van Daan. 

A 10-year-old boy said that he had learned in school of Hitler and the Holocaust, but now seeing the play, he wanted to learn more

I’ve found that there is always some beauty left–in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you. – Anne Frank

Emma Sheldon, a student at North Attleboro High School and part of Trinity Repertory’s Youth Company, plays Anne Frank, and is simply outstanding, as is William Corriveau, who plays Otto Frank. But so are the other cast members: Christine Healy (Edith Frank); Bryn Martin (Margot Frank); Chris Maxwell (Herman Van Daan); Meyer; Patrick Conaway (Peter Van Daan); Alyssa Christian (Miep); Richard Wolak (Mr. Dussel); Keith Eugene Brayne (Mr. Kraler).

The Diary of Anne Frank plays through October 29. Tickets can be purchased by calling 401-596-2341 or by visiting the theatre’s website at www.GraniteTheatre.org.

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes. – Anne Frank

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal....