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ALT cast shines in brilliant ‘Diary of Anne Frank’

Otto Frank is the epitome of a civilized man, while his daughter Anne embodies the spirit of life itself. He is intelligent, educated, generous and kind. She is spirited and irrepressible, but also kind and generous, and full of hope and promise.

Her life was cut short at 15 by a barbaric, inhuman, murderous and despotic regime. In the diary that she kept while hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic, she wrote, “I want to go on living even after my death. And therefore I am grateful to God for this gift of writing.”

She could hardly know that one day her published diary would rank as one of the great testimonies of courage and humanity in the face of tyranny. But that is just what “The Diary of Anne Frank is,” a vitally important work; everyone should read or see it at least once in their life.

And there is no better time than right now, for “The Diary of Anne Frank” is currently playing at the Albuquerque Little Theatre in a magnificent production, directed with exquisite finesse and deep compassion by James Cady.

Ryan Jason Cook has designed a beautiful multi-level set that perfectly captures the claustrophobic atmosphere while also allowing for a multiplicity of playing spaces for staging the various scenes.

By leaving the walls around the small bedrooms transparent we are able to see everything that is going on at all times; and there are actually four different levels, from the lower level leading to the door to the upper attic where Anne and Peter share the precious moments of their budding love before the Nazis snuff out their lives.

The ensemble is outstanding, and most of the actors are on stage for virtually the entire show. It was fascinating to watch the actors who were not the focus of a particular scene read in their corner of the attic, or smoke, or write, or whatever it might be; simply trying to exist in a high-pressure environment. This is realism at its very best.

While the entire cast is excellent, no production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” can succeed without a young actress capable of playing the mercurial temperament and precocious intelligence of young Anne believably. Fourteen-year old Annelise Wall is simply marvelous. From her first wide-eyed entrance to her last words to Peter, she is the embodiment of the spirited, courageous, and profoundly compassionate and humane Anne Frank.

But she is supported by a superb cast, and I only wish I had the space to give everyone the individual praise they deserve. This is a deeply moving show, and when it was over the audience, including this critic, rose to their feet in enthusiastic appreciation.

In the midst of barbarism a 15-year-old girl, who would soon be murdered in the ovens of Bergen-Belsen, could write in her diary: “I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” If only we could all be so wise.

Don’t miss this powerful and important production. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is playing through May 1. Visit albuquerquelittletheatre.org or call 242-4750 for reservations.

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