Off-Broadway Review: Anne Being Frank (28th Street Theatre)

September 13, 2023 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Former student at Sydney’s Moriah College Alexis Fishman has received plaudits from New York theatre critics for her performance of Anne Frank in the off-Broadway production of Ron Elisha’s play Anne Being Frank.

The following review was published with the permission of the American online publication Stage and Screen.

Paulanne Simmons writes…Perhaps the most famous quote from Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl is “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” However, these words were written before the Frank family was discovered in the secret annex and sent to concentration camps. Would Anne have had the same sentiments after she’d witnessed the full horror of the Nazi atrocities?

Anne Being Frank, a solo show starring Alexis Fishman and directed by Amanda Brooke Lerner, reimagines Anne’s life and thoughts both when she was in hiding and after she and her family were captured by the Gestapo.recee

Thus playwright Ron Elisha sets the drama in three worlds: the secret annex, where Anne writes the first part of her diary; Bergen-Belsen, where she dies of typhus; and an imaginary New York publishing house, where, delirious with typhus, Anne pictures herself negotiating with an editor she has named “Bow Tie” over what will and what will not be included in the final publication of her diary.

Bow Tie does not want the diary to contain anything that will be too traumatic for the reader or make Anne appear anything less than sweet and innocent. Anne wants to tell the whole story, including her rape by a German boy soldier she calls “Pimples,” her pregnancy and her abortion.

A cigar is all Fishman needs to conjure up the image of a successful, confident editor. But it is her portrayal of Anne that gives the play its vibrant emotional core.

Fishman effortlessly takes us on Anne’s horrific journey. We see Anne in her Amsterdam home where she was occupied with thoughts of matinée idols like Clark Gable and her future as a writer. We see her furtive existence as a hideaway in a concealed room behind a bookcase in the building where her father once worked. And we see her, filthy and emaciated, in the concentration camp where she met her tragic death.

When we read Anne’s diary, we need to imagine the tragedy. But when we watch Fishman embody the role, the tragedy that befell this young girl becomes a personal trauma that we live through alongside the victim.

Elisha is an excellent writer. But his prose, while often poignant, even poetic, occasionally becomes too wordy for the stage. Fishman delivers the words so “trippingly on the tongue” even Hamlet would have stood up and applauded.

G. Benjamin Swope’s lighting keeps the mood appropriately foreboding. And Graydon Gund’s sound design is especially effective in recreating the terrors of the concentration camps. But Anne Being Frank is mostly a showcase for Fishman’s considerable talents.

When she died, did Anne still have faith that people were good at heart? We will never know. But this play may break your heart.

photos by Richard Rivera
poster photo by Kaye Tuckerman

Anne Being Frank
28th Street Theatre, 15 West 28 Street
running time: 90 minutes
ends on October 29, 2023
for tickets, visit Emerging Artists

Reviewer: Paulanne Simmons Stage and Cinema/Theatre-New York

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