“Yours, Anne” Is A Heartrending Look At The Holocaust

Madison Mayer as Anne Frank and Wil Moser as Peter van Pels in "Yours, Anne."

Madison Mayer as Anne Frank and Wil Moser as Peter van Pels in “Yours, Anne.” (Photo by Bob Tucker, Focalpoint)

More than 70 years later, the story of Anne Frank and her family trying to survive in the face of the Nazi Holocaust is still timeless. Timeless because of the hope that helped them survive for two years while in hiding, but also for the way they lived as normally as they could in Amsterdam in a secret annex in a building where Anne’s father had worked.
So life went on as Anne, her parents and sister shared this crowded space with the van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer. The focus is on Anne, who on her 13th birthday receives the gift of the fateful diary, which is what the book “The Diary of Anne Frank” is based on.
“Yours, Anne” takes a different approach than other works (plays and films) based on the book. With book and lyrics by Enid Futterman and music by Michael Cohen, the play opened off-Broadway in 1985 and has had productions in regional and community theaters both here and abroad.

Eventide Theatre Company’s production is a haunting, plaintive staging of the experience of one group of Jewish people who faced the horrors of a time that still reverberates these many years later.
This heartrending Eventide production features a talented cast and is lit by Madison Mayer playing the irrepressible Anne. Mayer has a lovely voice and has achieved a deep understanding of the role. She is a delight as the bright, impish, outspoken and yet vulnerable teenager dealing with a loss of her childhood as she verges on womanhood trying to make a normal life in a horrendous situation, where every noise below the hiding place strikes terror in the group as they long for the Allied invasion.
Eight people lived in tight quarters from July 1942 until August 1944, making the most of a struggle marked by fear, frustrations and disagreements, and yet held together by love and generosity.

Madison Mayer as Anne Frank, center, with from left, Julie French as Edith Frank, Lindsey Agnes as Margot Frank, and John Williams as Otto Frank in "Yours, Anne."

Madison Mayer as Anne Frank, center, with from left, Julie French as Edith Frank, Lindsey Agnes as Margot Frank, and John Williams as Otto Frank in “Yours, Anne.” (Bob Tucker, Focalpoint)

Throughout, Futterman’s lyrics, written to Cohen’s music, longingly expresses the various feelings of the group. Songs by Anne and by others in the cast, both individually and as a group, are plaintive, longing and even celebratory.
In the beginning, the cast comes together to sing “Ordinary Day” as they arrive in the hiding place with the yellow stars, marking them for disaster, on their coats.
Told from Anne’s point of view, the conflict with her mother is set to song in “She Doesn’t Understand Me,” not untypical of a mother-daughter relationship. Ardently played by Wil Moser, Peter van Pels, the teenage son of Hermann and Auguste, cries out in song “I’m Not a Jew” as he rails against his plight. And we see young love arise when Peter and Anne sing “I Think Myself Out.”
In the joyful song, “The First Chanukah Night,” the cast comes together in a candle lighting ceremony that is beautifully staged on Ellis Baker’s appropriately spare set. When the group hears of the invasion, they are encouraged as they sing “When We Are Free,” imagining life returning to normal.
John Williams warmly expresses the kind peacemaker Otto Frank, (Anne’s father). Julie French sensitively captures the character of Edith, Anne’s mother, struggling with a daughter who defies her.
Lindsey Agnes gracefully plays Margot, Anne’s quiet, accommodating sister. Garry Mitchell, as Hermann van Pels, and Celeste Howe, as his wife, ably define some of the conflict that adds to a situation, in which fear and scarcities plague the group. And James Swindler is Fritz Pfeffer, the dentist, who joins the initial group and adds to the complications.

John Williams as Otto Frank and Julie French as Edith Frank. (Bob Tucker, Focalpoint)

Kay DeFord’s direction perceptively brings together the cast as they sensitively create a picture of just one of the multitude of horrific experiences that defined the Holocaust. It is a credit to Eventide for producing this powerful play and reminding us about a time the world should never forget.
Eventide Theatre Company’s “Yours, Anne” runs through March 13 at the Gertrude Lawrence Stage, Dennis Union Church, 713 Main Street, Dennis. Show times are Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For more information you may call 508-398-8588 or online at www.eventidearts.org.

–By Debbie Forman

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