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Anne Being Frank

A person sitting on a bed

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Alexis Fishman (Photo: Richard Rivera)

Anne Being Frank

Reviewed by Julia Polinsky

The Diary of Anne Frank: who has not heard of it? Who doesn't know the story of the hidden Jewish girl who memorably thought that people were good at heart, yet died in Bergen-Belsen? Who has not wondered what might have been?

Well, Australian playwright and Drama Desk member Ron Elisha has, and taken on the task of writing the what-if play. Anne Being Frank, his one-woman show currently running in repertory at The 28th Street Theatre and starring Alexis Fishman, speculates on what might have happened if Anne had continued to write in her diary while she was a prisoner at Bergen-Belsen, and found a publisher in New York after she survived the war. That's a lot of what-if.

Framed as a dream, Anne Being Frank indeed feels dreamlike. It drifts from one scenario to another as Alexis Fishman moves beautifully among the three - or is it four? - areas of the stage that symbolize the parts of her story. There's the section in which she's the familiar young girl being hidden from the Nazis in the attic; a section in which she, in Bergen-Belsen, continues to write her diary by trading her body for a notebook and pencil; and the banal future office of a cynical future editor who wants to publish her diary.

A person sitting on a step with a book and a bed

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Alexis Fishman (Photo: Richard Rivera)

Yet there's a fourth place of focus: downstage, two stacked travel trunks give Anne a place to sing and talk of her dreams.

The prison-camp section is where the Anne we think we know disappears, and a harder, more cynical, more driven young woman emerges from the hard wooden bunk she lies on. This Anne will do anything to write, up to and including trading sexual favors she barely knew existed before life in the camp. The abortion she endures - the description of the abortionist's barbed wire caked with dried blood is deeply horrifying - puts paid to any innocence our familiar Anne may have had.

She also loses any innocence about the world of publishing. Mr. Bowtie, the editor of her dream, frequently argues with her, invalidating her experiences and insisting she red-pencil out whole sections of her truth.

As often happens in dreams, the past and future get mashed up together with a side of utter fantasy. Making that mashup coherent and credible is a lot to ask of a performer. Despite her dedicated and embodied performance, Alexis Fishman somehow doesn't rise to what the show needs. Her attempts to turn on dime from attic-Anne to Bergen-Belsen-Anne to postwar-Anne don't always work as well as they need to. Part of that is because there are just so many transitions, so many moments flipping from this era that, from little girl to prisoner to cigar-puffing editor. Too many moments. They don't flow because they can't.

Fishman gives a committed, heartfelt performance. Director Amanda Brooke Lerner could tighten the show, but regardless, the basic premise would still be what-if about something possibly best left as is.


Anne Being Frank

At the 28th Street Theater (TADA), 15 W. 28th Street

Through October 29th, 2023.

Upcoming Performances:

Sun Oct 22, 2023 2:00 PM

Tue Oct 24, 2023 7:00 PM

Thu Oct 26, 2023 2 time slots

Sun Oct 29, 2023 2:00 PM