The author of John Lennon And Me has now come up with Anne Frank And Me, a Holocaust drama which opened Dec. 2 at NY's American Jewish Theatre.
In Anne, a modern-day, skeptical teenage girl assigned to study Anne Frank's famous diary, dismisses the document as ancient history. In a Wizard Of Oz-like stroke (reads the press release), she is transported to 1942 Nazi-occupied Europe, where she meets the real Anne Frank. Though the two aren't connected, Cherie Bennett's story oddly echoes the Twilight Zone - The Movie episode about a loudmouth bigot who finds himself on a cattlecar in Nazi Germany. (The scene was never properly completed because actor Vic Morrow was decapitated by an errant helicopter blade during filming.)
Associate producer Jeff Gottesfeld (who is also Bennett's husband) told Playbill On-Line that if the play was influenced by anything, it was by the appearance of Arthur Butts of Northwestern University, on TV's "60 Minutes." "It was a piece on Holocaust denial. And my wife was thinking about it and she figured if kids see some skinhead with a swastika on `Geraldo,' they think, `oh, he's just crazy.' But Butts was well-dressed, well-mannered...he could be a friend of the family or a schoolteacher. And kids try to be fair-minded. So they see two sides to every story even when there aren't always two sides. They have a truncated sense of history. That's why the play puts this young girl in that time, because to her, the Holocaust has no relevance; it's ancient history. But she learns."
Gottesfeld also said the play had been thoroughly researched by himself and Bennett. "We went to prime historical soures and original sources. The piece has been thoroughly vetted."
Featured in the Anne Frank cast are Richard H. Blake, Christopher Cook, Abigail Hardin, Careena Melia, Janan Raouf, Karen Shallo, Mandy Siegfried, John Simeon Sloan, Greta Storace, Rachel Ulanet and David Winton. Sets for the show are by James Wolk, costumes by Pamela Scofield, lighting by Susan White, sound by Bruce Ellman. Cherie Bennett has written dozens of young adult novels and a syndicated advice column for teens. Her other plays include the aforementioned John Lennon And Me, as well as Sex And Rage In A Soho Loft and Cyra And Rocky, which was recently staged at the Kennedy Center.
A spokesperson from Jeffrey Richards Associates told Playbill On-Line that although the production is appropriate for younger viewers, it isn't a children's or young adult show but a show geared towards general audiences.
Anne Frank And Me is not to be confused with The Diary Of Anne Frank, the 1955 drama that will come back to Broadway in autumn, 1997, staged by James Lapine.
The New York premiere of Anne Frank And Me runs through Dec. 15, at the AJT on West 26th St. The company is currently weighing whether to extend the show an extra week to 10 days (any longer would conflict with the AJT's season schedule). For tickets and information call (212) 633-9797.
-- By David Lefkowitz