Anne Being Frank. What a perfect title for this piece.
This is playwright Ron Elisha’s imagining of what dear Anne Frank might have written after being removed from her hiding place referred to as “the Secret Annex”. What if Anne survived and became a writer in NY with a crimson bowtie literary agent? Much of the play centers on their conflicts; "Bowtie," as he's referred to, often tries to downplay Anne's intensity based on his ideas of what will sell or be considered acceptable, all the while Anne fights for truth and reality. Anne Being Frank is a salient discussion for these times where censorship is sadly such a hot topic even in our land of "free speech."
Some of Anne's original diary is included, but the body of the show considers what Anne would have written after her capture, where her diary ends. What would she have written from Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen? What happened to her there? The theories are horrific, but they are not far-fetched.
The core question of this play is, would Anne have held to her previous statement made a few weeks before her capture, that "In spite of everything, people are really good at heart." Would she have kept this belief after being hurled into the heart of darkness from whence she never returned?
Furthermore, would you or I hold true to that idea?
Ron Elisha expertly explores this core question with many profound moments and phrases that stop the heart, such as: "When I wrote my diary, it was a book without an ending. A book with a future. It had never occurred to me that there might not be one." He captures the depth Anne's experience and the imagined possibilities for this young girl. Elisha leaves the audience with thought provoking statements such as this one, "Killing, for me, would be an act of rebellion. An act of revenge. A refusal to fade silently into history as the eternal victim." His writing further highlights the bravery and tenacity of Anne.
In addition to the writing, the production is nearly seamless. One slight criticism is there are a couple of musical sound cues whose vocal tracks compete with the live dialogue. Otherwise, the subtle lighting by G. Benjamin Swope and the simple and appropriately stark set designed by Colleen Shae works well. I really have to rave about the choreography by John Reed and extra raves for Amanda Brooke Lerner's directorial blocking: concise and spare, even the circling of a finger, or sliding from one end of the splintery death camp bed to the other to write by the only light, the moon, packs powerful meaning. Every action COUNTS and is married perfectly to the words.
Now, to the most succulent portion of this experience. Alexis Fishman. This young woman shines in every last way. How does a person float while remaining painfully grounded? How does one embody unthinkable horrors with freedom and ease? How can one artist act so honestly we forget we're at a play, sing in a way that sears our hearts, and dance with the effervescence of a young teenager, yet carry that hopeful girl's doomed dreams? We can ask all these questions of Alexis Fishman. Keep an eye out for her! The theatre realm should embrace her, and soon, for the betterment of all.
Bravo, Emerging Artists Theatre, for supporting this production's incredible artistry. May this show progress without haste to the world stage where it belongs!
"Anne Being Frank"
Written by Ron Elisha
Performed by Alexis Fishman
Directed by Amanda Brooke Lerner
Emerging Artists Theatre
15 West 28th Street, NY, NY
Dana Loren McCoy is an award-winning Singer, Songwriter, Playwright, Director, Actor, and Film Composer.
She has topped Billboard charts with her songs, toured, directed, and performed her own and others’ works internationally.