In 2005, The Chance Theatre brought me back to direct a third production in a row. This was the fiftieth anniversary of the stage adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary. It was an honor to direct this important and compelling story.
We used the 1997 adaptation (created for the Broadway production with Natalie Portman), which is much tighter, more specific, and more theatrical than the original 1950s version. And the talented cast and design team brought wonderful ideas to the table; this was a surprising and very moving production that opened up the script with strong theatrical choices and intensely personal moments.
…Everything begins in shadows when Otto (brilliantly portrayed by Richard Comeau) finds the diary on the raked stage of Katherine Futterer’s astounding set under Jon Langrell’s ominous light design…Performing the demanding role of this irrepressible adolescent is Kristin Norris. Her infectious interpretation of the energetic young heroine is absolutely convincing. Also outstanding is Michael Irish as Peter, the awkward young boy who awakens Anne’s sensuality. Everyone in the cast deserves credit, especially Don Walters and Karen Webster as the difficult, self-important Van Daans, and Annie Mezzacappa as Edith Frank…Costello has captured the exact poetic tone, mood, and ambiance needed to underscore the drama…”
“…proves that, even 50 years later, Anne Frank’s hopeful view still packs a punch… If you find yourself weeping, and maybe just a little bit ashamed, while watching this staging, you’re not alone… Backed by an outstanding production team, director Josh Costello has wrought an organic production whose every facet fits the larger mosaic, forming a harsh, wrenching, bittersweet tale. His staging captures Anne’s perspective — of evil as viewed by someone who had only ever known goodness — and he understands Anne as a sensitive observer of humanity… More critically, Costello gets at the heart of the indescribable tedium the group experiences, relating the incredible tension generated by eight refugees living in close confinement for two years, in constant fear of discovery. For those used to seeing Anne portrayed as a naive youngster subdued by those around her, Kristin Norris is likely to be a shock… Norris delivers a luminous performance with a definite arc from the playful girl who at first sees going into hiding as an adventure to an honest 13-year-old glowing about her budding sexuality… Set designer Katherine Futterer’s raked, angled stage depicts the various levels and corridors of a musty and cramped attic. Erika C. Miller clothes the cast in joyless grays, tans and washed out greens and blues, while Jon Langrell’s lighting design helps form a tight, effective lens for the drama. Most evocative, though, is Costello and Jeremy Golden’s innovative sound design, which frames the story with vivid noises: wailing voices and horns suggesting ancient Israel, Hitler ranting before throngs, glass shattering, trains roaring and piano music — Chopin etudes that preserve the delicate melancholy pervading this staging.”
“Spunky and fresh as ever… poignant… Costello’s crisp direction… haunting, brutal… Kristin Norris imbues her portrayal of Anne Frank with boundless vitality…”
-Northern Lights (local weekly)