In the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus, Art Spiegelman found a unique perspective on the Holocaust by drawing the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats. Maus' insight into anti-semitic persecution and the generation gap relied on strong characterization, but the "animal" trope never let you forget who were the predators and who were the prey in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Writer/director Bobby Box uses a comparable device in the world premiere of Anne Frank: Within & Without at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Much of Box's play presents teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family as dolls, hiding in a dollhouse replica of their two-year hideout in Amsterdam. Presenting Anne Frank as an actual plaything continually and powerfully reminds us that she was both a young girl and a helpless pawn of history.
Anne Frank: Within & Without dispels any doubts that fresh angles for Holocaust narratives have been exhausted. The play can shock by simply recounting the plain facts of genocidal policies and the complicity of whole nations. Anne Frank's best moments use surreal symbolism: A literal Punch and Judy show recounts the increase of anti-Jewish laws, each of which accompanies another blow from the slapstick.
Anne Frank: Within & Without benefits from violinist Chip Epsten's moody live music and such engrossing images as the cutaway, scale model of the Frank family sanctuary. Box even finds a little room for humor. The Frank family goes into hiding wearing all the clothes on their backs (suitcases would invite suspicion), so the little girl appears rotund and almost immobile. The play's best moments turn out to be its most disturbing one when Box goes beyond the diary's final entry to recount the grim details of the family arrest and their bitterly missed chances of salvation.
By recounting Frank's life and death with puppets, Box faces built-in hindrances to visual drama. The blank-eyed puppets have inexpressive faces, while Frank's introspective writings and confinement limit the kinds of action available. At times, the script voices banal sentiments such as "Freedom was not so far away. And yet, so very far away." Nevertheless, narrator/puppeteers Janet Metzger and Hope Mirlis capture Frank's girlish enthusiasm in the face of overwhelming oppression. Ironically, in Anne Frank: Within & Without, an inert wooden toy helps a famed young woman seem to live again, however briefly.
Anne Frank: Within & Without runs through Jan. 29 at the Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring St. Thurs.-Fri., 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. $16-$22. 404-873-3391. www.puppet.org.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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