David Bradley’s production of this classic is a sterling example of a strong scripts coupled with a great ensemble.
Most people know the story of the Franks, another family, and a single dentist hiding from Nazis in an Amsterdam warehouse annex in an attempt for survive the German ravages of the time. Many have visited the Anne Frank on the Prinzengracht in Amsterdam, as I have three times. No familiarity with the Franks’ story or fate can take the intensity of immediacy away from Bradley’s telling.
While the PL&T program scared me into thinking this production might be an overdone “think piece” meant to conceptualize the Anne Frank saga, I was quickly relieved and delighted to see Bradley and his cast deliver a straightforward, honest, and naturalistic reading of the material. The Wendy Kesselman revision of the original Goodrich-Hackett script adds texture, providing a broader picture of the life the Franks and van Daans lived in their refuge while keying into more individual factors about Anne, her mother, and Peter van Daan.
Bradley’s cast is to be congratulated for creating the consistent feeling of people living their lives. There’s no self-consciousness on the PL&T stage. The material is direct and speaks for itself. Brittany Anikka Liu, the Anikka being a variation of the affection name Otto Frank called his daughter, is a marvelous Anne Frank, impetuous and incorrigible in her liveliness as an 11-year-old in hiding, mature and thoughtful as Anne becomes a teenager, begins to see things more complexly, and awakens to interest in boys, the only one around being Peter.
Tyler S. Elliott keeps correct distance from everyone in early scenes, as Peter asserts individuality and independence the best his teenage self can but softens subtly and definitely to Anne in a sweet, laudably real portrayal. Melanye Finister does her expectedly brilliant job at the emotional Mrs. Van Daan. Christopher Patrick Mullen also comes through with his usual excellence as the dentist, Dr. Dussel. Although many of the performers were new to People’s Light, which usually draws from an ensemble that has done dozens of shows together , the veterans and newcomers in Morning’s at Seven came together as if they has the same experience and chemistry. Deborah Green, as Mrs. Frank, is a particularly satisfying addition to the fold.
[People’s Light , 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, Pa] February 21-March 31, 2018; peopleslight.org.