REVIEW: Towngate’s “The Diary of Anne Frank”

By Mario Muscar

Last week, I went to a performance of the opening play of Towngate’s 2018-2019 season, “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

I arrived early to have a beer in the lobby and mingle and interact with friends in the Towngate community. After I finished my beer, I headed upstairs and sat down for the show. A large number theater-goers were in attendance. It made me happy to see so many people had come out to support local theater and watch this classic play.


The first thing that I noticed as the show began was the set. The entire stage was covered with the makeshift attic where the Jewish families chronicled in “The Diary of Anne Frank” were hiding. Before anyone even set foot on the stage, it looked cramped. There were different nooks and crannies, and the entire place was full chairs, tables, little cots, stools, etc. And as more and more of the cast appeared on the stage, the cramped feeling was complete. The set effectively demonstrated how these eight people were uncomfortably packed into a small space for more than two years, hiding from the Nazis who would send them to work camps and potential death.

The script, adapted by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett from Anne’s diary, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1956, and it is still a strong script today. The script is a moving tribute to life and hope, but one that leaves you heartbroken at the end and left with a feeling of horrifying waste, defeat and guilt, the very familiar having been made harsh and abnormal.


However, there are of course moments of humor and joy. A moment in the first act where Mrs. Van Daan talks about her youth and the short skirts she wore to show off her legs was rather amusing. And the performance by Maria McKelvey truly sold the moment and lightened the show. Another moment that stuck with me was the Hanukah scene where they are celebrating the holiday. Anne, played with youthful exuberance and optimism by Taylor Andrews, made the scene shine as she handed out Hanukah gifts that she cobbled together from what she could find or make in the attic.

One can certainly see why “The Diary of Anne Frank” is part of the regular teaching curriculum to young students in the United States. It shines a light on an incredibly dark moment of humanity while revealing to us that the human spirit and hope are vital to survival in the face of certain death. Everyone should experience “The Diary of Anne Frank” sometime in their lives. And Towngate Theatre gives us the opportunity to do so.


“The Diary of Anne Frank” is one of the most famous and haunting stories to emerge from the 20th Century. The memoirs of a young Jewish girl, forced to hide for nearly two years to escape Nazi persecution, are an essential part of how we remember one of the darkest periods of our human history.


Remaining performances for Towngate Theater’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett are September 28 and 29. Curtain is at 8pm.

Admission is $12.50/$11 OI members. Purchase tickets online or by calling 304-242-7700, or at the door, if available.