Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anne Frank & Me

As part of ArtsFest I decided to go to the Orlando Repertory Theater to see Anne Frank & Me. At the box office I asked about ArtsFest free tickets and I was put on a waiting list. I stood around with six or seven other people waiting. If the performance sold out, we wouldn't get a seat. Soon enough I was called back to the box office and given a ticket. The young ticket taker at the theater door abandoned his post when his family arrived and he went in with them to be seated. Since there was no one to take my ticket, I wandered in and found a seat. The seats were perhaps half full.

The play started out in Nicole's bedroom as she and her girlfriends practiced dance moves for an upcoming high school dance. The girls discuss Anne Frank's diary which is required reading at school. Nicole's mom believed that the horrors of Nazi concentration camps must be blown out of proportion. Nicole lets slip the fact that she has a crush on a boy at school. The other girls tease her. The scene is frivolous and care free. At the school dance this boy pulled her aside to talk. She anticipated his declaration of love, but instead he asked her if she thinks her girlfriend likes him. He asks Nicole to be a buddy and find out. Crushed, she runs across the road without looking and ends up being struck by a car.

What followed is a cross between Back to the Future and the Wizard of Oz. She woke up in Paris 1942. Her family is now Jewish and fearful of the Nazi invasion. Ultimately her family has to go into hiding. The boy she had a crush on ends up giving away her family's hiding place. They were shoved into a packed cattle car heading to Auschwitz and she meets Anne Frank face to face. The final scenes are gruesome and tear jerking. Fierce spotlights blazed through the cattle car doors directly into the audiences eyes. Angry German guards shouted and pushed. The ten year old girls seated near me were curled up in a fetal position. This was a hard hitting play that left my nerves frazzled. The past never leaves us and we must bear witness to never allow prejudice and cruelty to gain a foothold.

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