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Off Broadway Theater Review - The Diary of Anne Frankenstein

  

LIVING DEAD GIRL

 

picture - The Diary of Anne FrankensteinTheater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey

published October 9, 2009

 

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein

now playing Off Broadway at the 13th Street Repertory Theater

through November 8

 

It can be a good sign when your first reaction to a title is, “why didn’t I think of that first?”  The Diary of Anne Frankenstein definitely has witty titular juxtaposition, promising an absurd send-up of two texts most commonly read in high school literature courses. 

 

It all sounds good on paper.  Gustav Frankenstein, a Nazi scientist (Joseph Beuerlein) tries to engineer the perfect Aryan woman, but his creation turns out to be a bit more ballsy than even the German ideal.  The scientist names his creation ‘Anne’ and flees, leaving her alone with a diary to live in the attic of the abandoned laboratory.  Years later, the scientist returns to his laboratory to reincarnate Hitler, while Anne (Mimi Imfurst) comes of age as a stereotypical teenager: lonely, lost, and looking for love. 

 

Of the cast, particular note goes to Lavinia Co-Op as The Diary, who stands out with grace and wit (and is further assisted by Mel Kier’s amusingly literal costume design).  As Anne, Mimi Imfurst whines, pouts and plots, a drag queen frankengirl that isn’t quite sure what she wants or how to get it.  It’s no surprise that Anne and her catty Diary steal the show.  The rest of the cast remembers by the second act that simply making faces does not make a character.  Everyone is making fun of their stock roles as much as they are embodying them, with a certain tongue-in-cheekiness that would be endearing if their mugging did not so dramatically slow the performance. 

 

I’d possibly be more benevolent if the cast and director Elizabeth Elkins did not manage to stretch an intermissionless two hours out of a script that shouldn’t take more than ninety minutes.  Of course, Chesley Allen’s bulky set doesn’t do anyone any favors, and the entire cast could easily shave fifteen minutes off of the play if the scene changes were more streamlined.  Trimming those, and cutting the elevator girl gag (cute the first time, annoying the second, third, and fourth) would immensely help with the pacing of the evening overall.  Ilya Sapiroe’s script requires a deft and nimble hand, and it’s unfortunate that Elkins lets the action drag. 

 

Camp and absurdity work best when their utter ridiculousness masks a critique of social or cultural norms, but the deepest this show seems to go is “maybe those Nazis weren’t such great folks after all.”  Maybe you just can’t have a light-hearted sci-fi musical romp about Hitler (no matter what The Producers say).  Maybe I’d be more satisfied if the script had just a bit more substance.  Maybe I hoped for too much from Anne Frankenstein, but then again, if she couldn’t live up to her creator’s expectations, how could she ever live up to mine?

 

kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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