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Theatre IV's "And Then They Came For Me" sheds light on the world outside Anne Frank's hiding place. 

Beyond the Diary

The question you have to ask about a play that deals with the Holocaust is: Does it illuminate the subject or exploit it? After all, you're going to be dealing with the slaughter of 6 million people from the get-go. Lazy playwrights and directors can use this horrible fact to jerk tears out of an audience without breaking a sweat.

Luckily, playwright James Still and director Steve Perigard aren't lazy. They are responsible for Theatre IV's moving production of "And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank," a show geared to middle- and high-school students that also has plenty to offer older audiences. The play uses the personal remembrances of two Holocaust survivors to expand upon the story of Anne Frank, the famous diary author. Playwright Still has crafted an effective — if overly expositional — script full of vivid imagery that gives substance and shape to the horrors of World War II. Perigard, with the help of set designer Terrie Powers, creatively integrates videotaped interviews of the survivors with the live action on stage so that the two mediums complement each other, rather than conflict. He has also chosen performers who can plumb the emotional depths required to humanize the Holocaust's brutal truths.

The play follows the lives of Eva Schloss and Ed Silverberg, both teen-agers at the beginning of the war, who became acquainted with Anne Frank in Amsterdam. Schloss was eventually sent to Auschwitz, and, through her story, we find out first-hand about life at the death camps. Details of her struggle are juxtaposed against Silverberg's experience. After being separated from his parents, he fled Holland and nearly fell into Nazi hands on two occasions. He managed to escape, but between hiding and running, he was apart from his family for five years.

As the young Eva Schloss, Alissa Ogurchak uses the girlish lilt of her voice and an awkward physicality to shine in the show's most challenging role. The script often forces her to talk about her emotions rather than act them out (a typical line of dialogue: "I was very, very scared.") But it also gives her a stunning interrogation scene where Schloss disassociates herself from the physical abuse so she can cope with it. Cliff Todd plays Schloss' brother and Silverberg's father but makes his biggest impression as a Hitler youth, delicately exposing the soul-crushing toll of Nazi indoctrination.

As the teen-age Silverberg, Duke Lafoon spends most of his time addressing the audience but still manages to develop Silverberg into an adequate character. While Gypsy Pantoja bears a striking resemblance to Anne Frank, the role is unfortunately a cameo. The playwright uses Frank only as a touchstone to spin the other stories from.

Steven Koehler helps dramatize the details with his inventive lighting design. And it is the details from these stories that will stay with you: a haunting whistle, pencil marks on a doorway, steam rising from a recently killed horse. "And Then They Came For Me" may make you cry, but the tears are well-earned, not cheaply
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