Review of Prana’s The Diary of Anne Frank

Ten young thespians vividly brought to life this timeless story of hope and optimism in the face of death this last weekend. First published as The Annex, then Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, her story has been published in over 70 languages and many consider it one of the best books of the 20th century. It was turned into a play in 1955, which won a Pulitzer Prize, and a movie in 1959, for which Shelley Winters won an Academy Award for her role as Mrs. Van Daan. Simply started as a diary of a 13 year old girl, it gained world wide attention once published because it put an innocent but perceptive face on the horror of the Holocaust. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only one of the group to survive the death camps, and when he returned to their secret hiding place after the war, an embittered old man, he happened to find Anne’s diary. He wanted her story to be told. 

Aster Kris as Mr. Frank

This is where our play begins. Miep Geis enters. Played well by Claire Nielsen, she is a loyal friend of the family who risks her own life continually by reliably bringing them food and books as best she could. She has returned to the secret annex, and encounters Otto Frank, (Aster Kris) who convincingly plays the wide range of emotions Mr. Frank must have felt as he tried desperately to keep his family and friends calm during the frightening time of their captivity. 

Caroline Mulik as Peter and Lauren Condor as Anne Frank

Then the play flashes back to the relatively carefree days, at least for the children, before they had to go into hiding. Anne Frank, played with great emotion by Lauren Conder, explains in an impressive monologue what restrictions have been forced on them as Jews: the yellow stars, no bicycles, no streetcar rides, her father’s being forced from his professional job, and segregated schools. Then suddenly they must go into hiding. Putting on all the clothes they can wear without looking suspicious, the whole family walks to the secret annex. Little do they know how long they will have to remain there, or if they will come alive. Margot, Anne’s older sister, is carefully portrayed by Sabrina Kale as calm and reasonable, in contrast to the volatile Anne.

The Franks have generously offered to share their hiding place with a business acquaintance, Mr. Van Daan, and his wife and son Peter. Mrs. Van Daan, played with precision by Victoria Edwards, quickly shows herself to be hysterical, selfish, critical and demanding. She and Mr. Van Daan, well played by Tim Conder as a contentious husband, frequently have loud fights. Peter, their son, as played by Caroline Mulik, is a lone wolf who finds Anne too much of a chatterbox, at least at first. But Caroline develops his character nicely as the play goes on. Mr. Kraler appears as one of the kind Christians who work downstairs. As him, Graham Lemiex tells of the attempted blackmailing by a fellow worker who suspects that the Franks are in hiding somewhere upstairs. His concern helps keep their hopes alive. 

When Anne begins her diary, she takes us on a journey into the very minds and hearts of the people with whom she is confined. Soon the kind hearted Franks are asked to take in yet another boarder. Mr. Dussell, as well played by Kaitlyn Hoffey, proves to be as selfish and critical of Anne as Mrs. Van Daan. Mrs. Frank, played with a loving, motherly touch by Grace Freeman, tries hard to keep the peace. It is very hard for her that initially Anne fights and resists her every attempt to have a close relationship. Mr. Frank, as the most mature of them all, continually has to diffuse the bickering that sets in quite understandably as the years drag on. With the tension of the war outside, their cramped quarters, their lack of privacy, the uncertainty of whether they will ever be freed, and the fact that they were mostly total strangers before they were thrown into this secret annex, it is a testament to the human spirit that they do as well as they do.

But the heart of this story is Anne. She is bright, spunky, full of life, and a keen observer of the adults and their foibles. She also can be mean and let her temper get the best of her. And she writes quite well. Because she can at once wax eloquently about the secret mysteries that are going on inside her as she reaches adolescence, and then fight back like a cat when wronged, one has a glimpse of the great journalist she could have been, had not the Germans killed her. Lauren Conder more than does justice to this vital, heartfelt role. Kudos to director Roberta Weiner, who shared with me that some papers with swastikas had been found at the middle school. When she spoke to this group of actors and asked what play they would like to do, they were unanimous in choosing The Diary of Anne Frank for that reason, and not a one of them is Jewish. Anne’s words reverberate to this day.

Cecilia LeBeau


  1. Roberta Weiner on March 12, 2024 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you so much for this beautiful review! This was truly a labor of love, and the support we have received from the audiences has been very heartwarming.

  2. Kate Nielsen on March 12, 2024 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you so much for the thoughtful review, as always!!!

  3. Kate Conder on March 17, 2024 at 8:47 am

    Beautiful review. I saw all three performances and couldn’t have said it better myself!

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