Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Diary of Anne Frank
Ross Valley Players
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Dangerous Corner and Of Serpents and Sea Spray and Patrick's review of Star Trek Live!: Mudd's Women

Brigid O'Brien
Photo by Robin Jackson
In troubled times, theatergoers often turn to lighter fare, searching for a little something to take the edge off the harsh realities that surround us: suicide bombers, terrorists in San Bernardino, a presidential campaign drifting into xenophobia ... Not to mention the fact that you didn't become a Powerball billionaire. On the surface, The Diary of Anne Frank looks to be a downer of the highest order. After all, everyone knows it doesn't end well.

But, as Anne says in her diary, and near the end of the show, "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." In spite of the depressing ending, this is, at its heart, a play to lift your spirits. For it is, after all, a story of goodness and perseverance and optimism and making the best of a very, very bad situation.

Anne, played here by the energetic and talented Brigid O'Brien, is one of the great characters of 20th century literature—all the more so because she actually existed. Perhaps the greatest tragedy laid bare in the play is the regret of what this amazing young woman might have accomplished had she not perished at the age of 15 in Bergen-Belsen.

The Barn Theater at the Marin Art & Garden Center is a perfect venue for this production. Similar to their marvelous staging of Journey's End the season before last, the low-ceilinged, somewhat cramped nature of the stage reinforces the claustrophobia of eight people living in a small set of attic rooms, in constant fear of discovery, deportation and death.

Director James Dunn has assembled an excellent cast, and leads them with tremendous skill. Though some of the line readings lack the passion and humanity they deserve, in general the cast members maintain a brisk pace, and the two-hour play fairly flies by. Kristine Ann Lowery is a marvelous Mrs. Van Daan: at times haughty and privileged, at other times gentle and empathetic. As her husband, Steve Price brings a terrific set of skills to the role—not least of which is his ability to pitch playing cards with some significant accuracy. Though his first act performance is a little stiff, after the intermission he seems to blossom, and his portrayal of Mr. Van Daan ends up being one of the highlights of the evening.

Brigid O'Brien delivers a potent Anne, but in a fairly narrow range. She does high-energy teenager and brooding, thoughtful teenager quite well, but would be wise to explore other moods of the complex, very human Anne. O'Brien has great potential as an actress—her focus and commitment are clearly on display, but I hope as she matures that she can discover how to better portray the delicacy of her characters.

In short, don't be thrown by the tragic ending of Anne Frank's story, as there is so much more to her story than that of a talented, vivacious young woman's life cut short by a xenophobic mad man. Anne's story can help remind us all of the importance of living every day to its fullest.

The Diary of Anne Frank plays Thursdays-Sundays through February 7, 2016, at the Barn Theatre, located in the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. No matinee on January 17. Ticket prices are $29 general admission, $25 for seniors (62+) and $14 for children under 18 and students with valid high school or college ID. Thursday night tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children and students with valid ID. Tickets can be ordered by calling 415-456-9555, ext. 1 or visiting

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