Anne Frank and Her Plea For Humanity – Theatre Review

Germany 1944
Germany 1944

Its scary to realize that while I grew up just after the war and, until recently,  knew many Holocaust survivors, my millennial daughter and many of her friends in Gen X and Gen Z have no idea of the horrific events or what it means to today’s hate filled violent society.  Some barely even known who Anne Frank was.

Timothy P. Brown and Ava Lalezarzadeh Photo by Michael Lamont

At this the 90th birthday of Anne Frank whose diary gave us some on insight into events of the war, more importantly into a young girl coming of age in this turbulent time, it is something that everyone both Jews and non-Jews should see. 

Written by Nick Blaemire,  from a translation by Susan Massotty. this new version of the play Anne: A New Play – Rediscovering Anne Frank – shows us the story of the diary from a different point of view.  As if Anne had survived, we see her in a Paris café meeting a publisher played by Timothy P. Brown and learn the story through his view. 

Ava Lalezarzadeh, Rob Brownstein. Andrea Gwynnel and Marnina Schon
Photo by Michael Lamont

Young Anne, played excellently by Ava Lalezarzadeh, a Persian-Jewish third year theatre major at UCLA, while Rob Brownstein played Otto Frank, Anne’s father.  Andrea Gwynnel portrayed Edith Frank while Margot,  Anne’s sister, was acted Marnina Schon and Kevin Matsumoto played Peter.  His parents were Aylam Orian and Mary Gordon Murray.  The dentist Pfeffer was Tony DeCarlo

Tony DeCarlo (The Dentist) and Rob Brownstein (Otto Frank)
Photo by Michael Lamont

Ann’s family had been a presence in Germany since 1074, and in Frankfurt since the 1600’s.  But when Otto saw what was happening, he took his wife and two daughters, Margot age 6 and Anne age 3, to Amsterdam in 1933.  For a while, life felt normal – the girls learned Dutch, ice skated and made friends.  But everything changed when the Germans invaded Holland.  When on July 5, 1942, 16-year-old Margot received a summons indicating that she would be returned to Germany for “work,” the family realized that the time had come to go into hiding. 

Andrea Gwynnel, Marnina Schon, Ava Lalezarzadehm, Kevin Matsumoto, Mary Gordon Murray, and Aylam Orian Photo by Michael Lamont

Otto’s friend, Nathan Straus, the Macy’s heir, tried his best to help the family obtain passage to America but the Breckenridge law demanded that the petitioner go personally to U.S. Consulate and that proved impossible.  Cuban visas had also been considered, but again, difficulties presented themselves. 

Andrea Gwynnel, Marnina Schon, Ava Lalezarzadehm,
Kevin Matsumoto, Mary Gordon Murray, and
Aylam Orian
Photo by Michael Lamont

Like most teenage girls, Anne disagreed with her parents, especially her mom, and felt unloved, unheard and lonely.  Dreaming of being a writer, her diary shows a maturity way beyond her years.  Her diary was her “best friend” and she confided everything to it as she dreamed of Hollywood and becoming a best-selling writer.  (In a way, she has.  A shame she never saw the impact of her words.)

Anne and her family hid for 25 months, but on August 4, 1944 were captured by a Gestapo agent, Karl Silberbauer, just a short time after the D-Day invasion.  The identity of their betrayer was never known.   They were first taken to a processing center before being shipped to Auschwitz on the last train.  Otto saw the last of his family there.  The girls, Margot and Anne, were then sent to Bergen Belsen camp where they both died of typhoid fever just shortly before they could be liberated.  Peter Van Pels  died in Auschwitz as did his parents and Edith.  Only Otto survived – one of a handful.  “Whenever you give up hope, the end is near.”

In her diary, Anne wrote, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.  I simply cannot build up my hopes on a foundation consistent of confusion, misery and death.”  She had also written “What one Christian does is his own responsibility, but what one Jew does reflects on all Jews.”

Aylam Orian and Mary Gordon Murray Photo by Michael Lamont

Silverbauer was hunted out by Simon Wiesenthal, himself, in 1963 while working with the Vienna Police force.  “Freedom,” he said, “is not a gift from heaven…we must fight for it every day.”

The Dutch version of her diary was published in 1947 and the American edition, with a forward from Eleanor Roosevelt, came out four years later. 

Ava Lalezarzadeh, Tony DeCarlo
Photo by Michael Lamont

This new adaptation sets aside traditional sets in favor of the characters as we focus on these real people fighting for their lives and their sanity as they try to hang on to a dream of the future.

Kevin Matsumoto, Ava Lalezarzadeh, Rob Brownstein,
Andrea Gwynnel, Marnina Schon, Mary Gordon Murray,
Aylam Orian, Tony DeCarlo, Timothy P. Brown
Photo by Michael Lamont

Suzi Dietz was the producer while the director Eve Brandstein has a personal connection to the story as her own parents were Holocaust survivors and her own sister, Ruth, and brother, Oscar, were among the 1.5 million children murdered in the war. 

The minimal but effect set was done by Desma Murphy while Florence Kemper Bunzel did the costume.  Ian James oversaw Lighting Design and Derek Christiansen did projection and sound design.   Ernest McDaniel was production/stage manager and was assisted Dylan Elhai.

Lucy Pollak did the excellent publicity and C. Paul Espinoza did marketing.  

Kevin Matsumoto and Ava Lalezarzadeh
Photo by Michael Lamont

One can see the Anne Frank exhibit for a combined price with the play and it gives you an excellent sense of what you are viewing.  There’s even a fake bookshelf as the one that the family hid behind.  Though the exhibit will be available after the play is over it’s great seeing the both together.   

Aylam Orian, Rob Brownstein, Ava Lalezarzadeh
Photo by Michael Lamont

Performances are from June 16, 2019, to July 22, 2019 and can be seen twice on Sundays – 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. as well as 8 p.m. on Mondays.  

Because of popularity, the play has been extended to August 5th. See if you can.  I’ve been there twice taking guests each time.  Each time I appreciated it more.  

Tickets cost $40 for general admission, seniors over 62 are $25, and students are $20.  One can also buy a family pack – 2 adults and up to 3 kids – $100.

  The Museum of Tolerance can be contacted at 310 772-2505 and is located at 9786 W. Pico, Los Angeles, 90035.  Free parking is available beneath the museum. 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a human rights organization researching not only the Holocaust and anti-Semitism but hate and terrorism globally.  They work to promote human rights and dignity and challenges visitors to confront all sorts of bigoty and racism.  They have special exhibits honoring LGBT pride and teach tolerance for all. 

Ava Lalezarzadeh and Marnina Schon
Photo by Michael Lamont

Even children as young as eight should see this. “It has to be retold to be remembered. This could be us.” And what we don’t remember, we are doomed to repeat – I fear. 

See it once, twice or many times – and absorb it for posterity so that your children will understand and the children after them. 

About Serita Stevens 34 Articles
An award winning writer of books, scripts, adaptations and teacher of writing I am also a forensic nurse and assist writers, producers, and attorneys with their medical, forensic, poison and investigative scenes in their stories or cases.

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