Director Amiee Turner told the press night audience that over 1,000 Rhode Island students were scheduled to see Ocean State Theatre Company’s production of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning “The Diary of Anne Frank.” This is a play that should be seen by every student and others interested in history.
Set in Amsterdam during World War II, it tells the story through the eyes of 13-year-old Anne Frank of a Jewish family and friends forced to hide out in an attic to avoid Nazi persecution.
Amanda R. Hall has built a set that allows for the eight residents to have their own space and still give the feeling of being too crowded at times.
Turner has turned to a number of local actors to fill key roles, and they all do a fine job.
PR person Karen Gail Kessler plays Anne’s mother with great emotion, dealing with the not uncommon mother/daughter problems, as Anne leans more heavily on her father, played by Mark S. Cartier.
Anne’s older sister, the quiet one in the family, is played by Alexandra Fortin of West Greenwich. The family’s protectors, who visit them with food and news of the outside world, are played by Cranston’s Rudy Sanda and North Kingstown’s Sarah Peirce.
New York actor Ethan Paulini and Bristol’s Ellen Arsenault play the Van Daans, another family living in the cramped quarters, along with their son, Peter (Warwick’s Brian Roque). A late addition to the group is played by Coventry’s Tommy Labanaris.
Cranston’s Olivia Gesualdi makes for a passionate Anne Frank, a playful, free-spirited soul who is not afraid of confrontation and willing to speak her mind, causing some conflict during the long days and nights that spanned over two years.
While this is an important play and carries messages that need telling, it is not the most exciting two and a half hours of theatre. The moments of conflict are quickly resolved and the moments of joy are few.
Voiceovers are heard during scene changes, revealing more of Anne’s character and perspective on life. Accents come and go and some lines are lost when actors are turned from the audience, but this can be quickly corrected.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is at Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre,” 1245 Jefferson Blvd., through April 13. Tickets are $39 to $49, with $25 “Rush” tickets when available an hour before the show. Call 921-6800 for reservations.