Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Anne Frank Lives
A Play by Lawrence Kessenich
Reading at Boston Playwrights’ Theater
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
When I first heard of the idea behind the play: Anne Frank survived the Holocaust and was alive in New York circa 1962, I had grave doubts about one of the iconic symbols of the six million who died at the hands of the Nazis being misused or misrepresented by a modern day writer, not Jewish, for the sake of a play. After attending this reading, however, I can attest that playwright/poet Lawrence Kessenich has achieved a marvelous play that brings life – on stage – a double faceted view of what might happened, or not.
The Anne Frank as Kessenich conceives her is also Ann Franklin resident of a mental institution in New York. She claims to be Anna Frank, but her psychiatrist tells her she is Anna Franklin. She does her best to try and convince him, she goes back and forth between her two personae and the audience wonders is she, or isn’t she? Even Anna Frank’s father is torn when he visit’s her at the hospital and she asks, “Why don’t you hug me?” But of course he cannot because he does not believe it can really be her.
The play is interspersed with characters at the hospital who include a patients who believes she is Marie Antoinette, a man who says he is Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
and the ghost of Anne’s mother, who died in a concentration camp.
In the end, Anne Frank’s father comes to accept her, even though the audience probably does not. Is his acceptance mere hope, a desire to have his daughter back or an illusion?
The answers are not always clear, though in one of her final monologues Anne/Ann says she must remain dead because, “It is the least I can do for my people.” She is afraid the Holocaust will be considered a fraud if she is alive. But perhaps it could also be said then that she is doing it for the world, whether real or not.
It is a play I look forward to seeing in full production where it will be worthy of a wide audience.