In celebration of what would have been Anne Frank’s 90th birthday this June, the Simon Wiesenthal Center presents the U.S. premiere of ANNE, A NEW PLAY, by Dutch playwrights Jessica Durlacher and Leon de Winter. Directed with keen insight by Eve Brandstein, this new adaptation of the immortal Holocaust story about 13-year-old Anne Frank begins as she imagines her life as a young woman, safe in a post-war world enjoying an afternoon at a café in Paris. Soon she meets a Publisher who, after offering to buy her a meal and a glass of wine, expresses interest in publishing her book. As she shares details from it, Anne looks back on the two years she spent hidden away with her family during the Nazi regime.
What makes this new work so fascinating is the interplay between Anne and the publisher throughout the telling of her story, with Anne speaking to him directly from within her history as it is taking place. As Anne, Ava Lalezarzadeh, a third-year Theater major at UCLA, brilliantly shares the mood swings and longings of an impetuous, spoiled and lonely teenage girl who has been forced to withdraw from the world, focusing her innermost thoughts through writing in her diary. As she shares, it is all she has to keep any sense of sanity in a world gone mad. And with an upsweep of her hair, the lowering of her voice, and wrapping herself in a lovely red coat, the older Anne steps in and out of the story to remind us of what could have been had she lived long enough to see her book published and realized how her life has made a real difference in the world. After all, that had been her fondest wish.
The outstanding cast, all of whom completely inhabit their roles, includes Rob Brownstein as Anne’s loving and understanding father, Otto Frank; Andrea Gwynnel as Anne’s sometimes overbearing mother Edith; Marnina Shon as Anne’s somewhat quiet sister Margot; with the remainder of Anne’s companions in the secret annex portrayed by Mary Gordon Murray as Mrs. Van Pels who doubles as family friend Miep, the woman who cared for them and saved the pages of Anne’s book until her father returned after the war to claim and publish it; Aylam Orian as Mr. Van Pels, and Kevin Matsumoto as young Peter Van Pels whom Anne pursues when puberty hits. Tony DeCarlo plays multiple roles including the dentist who hides with the Franks, Jan the landlord (Miep’s husband) and a dustman employed to keep the building clean, while Timothy P. Brown is featured as the fictional Publisher whose eyes are opened to Anne’s brutal days in hiding as her story is told.
All of the characters in hiding are depicted as real people under real circumstances, fighting for their lives, sanity, and dreams of the future. As Anne shares her story, the play explores the family members’ lives before they hid, how they dealt with each other during the arduous ordeal of secrecy, finally sharing what happened to each with a candle held by each cast member to honor their memory. And when it turns out Anne’s dream of traveling to Paris and having her book published is really just the fantasy she was experiencing as typhus took her life within the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, be prepared for the tears to flow.
This new adaptation speaks directly to recent current events and increased anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. and globally. Now more than ever to honor Anne’s memory, we need to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and never allow a dictator to follow such an abhorrent path again.
“Anne, A New Play” continues on Sundays at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. through July 22, 2019. General admission is $40, with senior tickets (62+) priced at $25 and student tickets priced at $20. A family pack, good for two adults and up to three children, is $100, with the play appropriate for ages 8 and up. The play runs 85 minutes without an intermission at The Museum of Tolerance, located at 9786 W Pico Blvd. Los Angeles. Parking is free in the underground structure. For reservations and information, call (310) 772-2505 or go to www.museumoftolerance.com. Audiences can take advantage of a special offer to see the play in combination with the Anne Frank Exhibit currently on display at the Museum of Tolerance for a single price. Narrated by Academy Award®-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld, the museum’s newest experience brings Anne’s story to life through immersive environments, multimedia presentations, and intriguing displays.