I wrap up part one of my Stratford Festival reviews today. (Part two has to wait until I see the rest of the season later this summer.)
The Diary of Anne Frank is a very atypical play for me to go see, in that it is (a) contemporary, (b) based on real events, and (c) definitely not a comedy. I don't tend to enjoy contemporary drama that takes itself seriously (such as Miller or Williams) because, by and large, I really don't enjoy watching people with issues be terrible to each other. I enjoy Shakespeare plays about people with issues being terrible to each other because the distance of time and place and culture somehow dulls the edge. But contemporary family dramas involving overwrought parent-child relationships? No. Not really my cup of tea. I'd rather, you know, have fun instead.
When my family couldn't fit Anne Frank into our annual Stratford binge, I wasn't terribly sad about it, but something niggled at the back of my mind. "I really ought to see this," I thought. So when the Stratford Festival generously offered to provide me with a pair of tickets, I decided to take the plunge. (I hasten to note that my review is not influenced by the acceptance of said free tickets - if I didn't like the show I would have just never mentioned I had seen it in the first place.)
I really can't speak highly enough of director Jillian Keiley's decision to break the fourth wall right at the start by having the actors directly address the audience as themselves, not as their characters. As someone who is pathologically self-analytical in a theatrical situation, I tend to wall up when I feel a production is trying TOO HARD to elicit a particular emotion from me. By having the actors disarmingly introduce themselves and the characters they played, Keiley was very sneakily able to circumvent this tendency of mine.
You go into a production of Anne Frank expecting it to be sad, and it is invariably sad. It is to this cast's credit that this production was not uniformly colored with sadness and fear and poignancy, but instead had all the shades of emotion one would expect in a real teenaged girl's life: humor, laughter, frustration, brattiness, rebelliousness, annoyance, love, etc.
Was this fun? No. But not everything has to be fun all the time, and I'm glad I saw it.