The Play (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
In the first scene of the play, Mr. Frank returns alone to Amsterdam; he has been liberated from the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Revisiting the rooms where he last lived with his family, he discovers the diary kept by his daughter Anne. In memory, he returns to their last days together.
All the action of the play unfolds in a secret annex, located on the top floor of a warehouse and office building in Amsterdam, during and immediately after World War II. The Franks are a Jewish family forced to hide from the Nazis, who have occupied Holland. Though originally German, the family fled their native land with the advent of Adolf Hitler and established a profitable business and comfortable domestic life in Amsterdam. Now the Nazis have again disrupted their existence, first by the passage of anti-Semitic laws in Holland and now by the rounding up of Jews for deportation to work and death camps. In their secret annex, located above the offices where Mr. Frank conducted his business, the family has been joined by the three Van Daans. Mr. Van Daan was Mr. Frank’s partner in the spice trade. Later the two families agree to accept Mr. Dussel, a bachelor dentist whom they did not know earlier but whose life is now also threatened.
In the cramped quarters and with the constant fear of betrayal, it is not surprising that tempers flare. Originally, the Franks expected only a few weeks of captivity before liberation by the Allies. However, these weeks stretch into more than eighteen months. The Van Daans constantly fight, and Mr. Van Daan is caught stealing more than his share of their limited food supply. The spirited Anne is obliged to share her small room with the stuffy Mr....
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Dramatic Devices (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
The claustrophobic atmosphere of Europe under Nazi threat and the stresses and tensions of hunted Jews hidden in the midst of a thriving city are well conveyed by the single set employed for this full-length drama in two acts and ten scenes. Three small rooms and a tiny attic space alone are visible. Furniture also is sparse: a few chairs, cots, a table. Sounds from the outside—the carillon from the nearby Westertoren church, fragments of the popular song “Lili Marlene” wafting up to the annex, the pounding of marching feet, and snippets of the German language—add to the tension and mood of mounting fear, which culminates when the door to the hiding place, obscured only by a fake bookcase, is broken down and the Nazis thunderously intrude.
The mode of the drama is realistic; the young actress who created the role of Anne (Susan Strasberg) was the daughter of the great American teacher of method acting, Lee Strasberg, and the actor who first portrayed Mr. Frank (Joseph Schildkraut) came from a famous German-Jewish theatrical family. While action in the annex is necessarily limited, the interactions among personalities, Anne’s budding romance, and the minor villainies of Van Daan and Dussel sustain interest. All the while, suspense builds as the hiding place becomes ever more precarious. Even though these people live in the shadow of death, the play retains a measure of humor and joy in family affection. Playwrights Goodrich and Hackett were a...
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Topics for Further Study
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
Sources for Further Study
Bloom, Harold, ed. A Scholarly Look at “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.
Kopf, Hedda Rosner. Understanding Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.” Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Lindever, Willy. The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank. New York: Anchor, 1992.
Melnick, Ralph. The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Shaping of the Diary. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997.
Miller, Melissa. Anne Frank: The...
(The entire section is 82 words.)