Sean gives “tour-de-force performance” in ‘DIARY OF ANNE FRANK’ at Shakespeare NJ, “about as powerful and heart-wrenching as theater can be”

Anne Frank STNJ

“Still, when the script offers its quiet sections, during the halting romance between Anne and Peter, or the times when all the residents must not speak, lest they jeopardize their hiding space, the cast, directed by Joseph Discher, is at its most alive. My 12-year-old daughter, who accompanied me, was teary and moved, yet not so overcome as to look away. That’s the great effect of a story that both documents a brutal tragedy and celebrates these beautiful souls.” New York Times

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK opened at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey on October 17, 2015. The production, directed by Joe Discher, runs through November 21. For tickets, visit ShakespeareNJ.org.

Scroll down to see photos and read reviews from the production. 

l to r: Sean Hudock (Peter van Daan), Jaqueline Antaramian (Edith Frank), Emmanuel Nadeau (Anne Frank) in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Photo by Jerry Dalia.
(l to r) Sean Hudock (Peter van Daan), Jaqueline Antaramian (Edith Frank), Emmanuel Nadeau (Anne Frank) in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Photo by Jerry Dalia.

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New York Times: The Family of Anne Frank, Made Real by Silence


The book is famous for its words, yet the silences are the most affecting moments in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” In the play, quiet interludes are filled with humor, or fear, or tenderness, and provide the most poignant moments of this worthy production by the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey.

…Anthony Cochrane and Carol Halstead, as Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, and Sean Hudock, as their son, Peter, are similarly skilled, particularly in a scene where they are forced to give up Mrs. Van Daan’s treasured fur coat. As they argue, the other residents feign disinterest yet cannot help appearing dismayed; it’s a fine example of ensemble acting, and leads into Ms. Antaramian’s best moments as a woman succumbing to anguish.

Still, when the script offers its quiet sections, during the halting romance between Anne and Peter, or the times when all the residents must not speak, lest they jeopardize their hiding space, the cast, directed by Joseph Discher, is at its most alive.

While the play is useful as a history lesson (and the company has put together an impressive program of supporting events and an online guide), it’s important to let this tale speak for itself. My 12-year-old daughter, who accompanied me, was teary and moved, yet not so overcome as to look away. That’s the great effect of a story that both documents a brutal tragedy and celebrates these beautiful souls.

Read the full review online at The New York Times

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Examiner.com: ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ receives riveting staging in Madison 

Director Joseph Discher, who has been with the Company 25 years, led a tight ensemble that paid close attention to tiny details. The result was the true sheen of a polish on a lustrous, smooth surface: realism. On view onstage were not 10 skilled actors; rather, the audience became numerous curious onlookers peeking at two normal families, the Franks and the Van Daans—who somewhat knew each other but were now thrown into the forced, involuntary yet inevitable intimacy of confinement—painfully becoming all too aware of one another in their “home” that afforded them very little privacy.

true charisma springs unsuspectingly from two of the quietest characters, whose masterly understatement and perfect subtlety convert seemingly secondary wallflower roles into tour-de-force performances.

On the same end of the smallness spectrum, Sean Hudock embodies the painfully shy, awkward 16-year-old Peter Van Daan, who eventually becomes Anne’s friend and ultimately her sweetheart. His stooped shoulders, averted and downcast eyes, slight stammer and hesitating movement are artistry that proves that less really is more. He fully becomes the boy whose decent parents didn’t know how to make him feel proud of who he is, how to feel competent, how to feel worthy. Of all the underdogs in the drama for whom you can’t help silently cheering on, he probably is the underdoggest.

Without the tempering, counterbalancing effect brought by such skilled actors as Sean Hudock and Jacqueline Antaramian, whose utter confidence in their work helps them portray these practically motionless people, “The Diary of Anne Frank” perhaps would have no standouts among the cast. 

This riveting production is a must-see, and will leave you seeking answers to the question: How could humanity ever fail to prevent such an atrocity? 

Read the full review online at Examiner.com

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CurtainUp: ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ 

This new version takes a less sentimental approach to the familiar story. Yet, the course of this authenticated drama of a young Jewish girl’s ordeal during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam will always remain harrowing. 

In keeping with the play’s message, director Joseph Discher has considered each of the assorted crises and moods in a sensitive, if not especially empowering manner. Nevertheless, he does well by drawing us into the details of the daily life of the trusting souls who waited patiently for deliverance from evil for more than two years.

The tentativeness of Sean Hudock’s performance was just right for the role of Peter Van Daan, the shy friend and prospective beau who discovers, along with Anne, that buttinsky parents need not be a barrier to a budding romance.

Read the full review online at CurtainUp

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BroadwayWorld: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK at STNJ is Theatrical Excellence

The Diary of Anne Frank is now at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) through November 21st. This moving theatrical piece is impeccably performed with superb direction by Joseph Discher. The Pulitzer, Tony and NY Drama Critic’s Circle Award-winning play is written by Frances Goodrich andAlbert Hackett and adapted by Wendy Kesselman

While the fate of the characters is known to be bleak, there moments in the production you will absolutely relish. Affectionate exchanges between the members of the Frank family, a lovely Hanukkah celebration, the antics of the Daan family, Miep’s dedication to the group, the budding romance between Anne and Peter and Mr. Dussel’s serious nature are captivating elements in the play.

The cast of The Diary of Anne Frank is extraordinary in every respect. Each portrayal of the characters is so realistic that the Secret Annex comes to life before your eyes. Emmanuelle Nadeau is ideal as Anne Frank, a playful, sensitive and creative teen. Bryan Scott Johnson is excellent as Otto Frank, patient, intelligent and often the voice of reason. The show has remarkable, compelling performances by Jacqueline Antaramian as Edith Frank, Lauriel Friedman as Margot Frank, Anthony Cochrane as Mr. Van Daan, Carol Halstead as Mrs. Van Daan, Sean Hudock as Peter Van Daan, Shana Wiersum as Miep Gies, Patrick Toon as Mr. Dussel and Michel Leigh Cook as Mr. Kraler. The cast is rounded-out by Mathias Goldstein, Jackson Knight Pierce, and Nick Clark Tanner.

Read the full review online at BroadwayWorld

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NJ Footlights/NJ Arts Maven: Anne Frank Comes To Life @ STNJ

Now, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s poignantly powerful production brings Anne Frank’s unforgettable life to the stage, just as the world is experiencing a new wave of refugees fleeing war and seeking sanctuary—something the folks in the Secret Annexe were unable to do. Written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett as a play in 1956 (and adapted in 1997 by Wendy Kesselman after original text deleted by Otto Frank was restored to the diary), The Diary of Anne Frank certainly is, as Variety claimed, “one of the 20th century’s most remarkable and enduring pieces of literature.”

Sean Hudock is superb as the young man, all awkward and stammering in the beginning but warming to the attentions of Mr. Frank and Anne. The moment (and kiss) shared by Peter and Anne in the garret is very touching and tender.

Read the full review online at NJ Arts Maven

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NJ.com: ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ at Shakespeare Theatre

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” directed admirably by Joseph Discher, pulls no punches. Instead, the production spends most of its time developing the pitiable humanity of its characters, so that the haunting conclusion strikes a suitably painful chord.

Most of the first act finds the hideaways struggling to preserve normality. They dress formally for dinner; the adults are always addressed as Mr. and Mrs.; and the children study their Latin and French. It’s a fascinating window into the lives of people in an extreme situation…

…the final fifteen minutes of this production are about as powerful and heart-wrenching as theater can be. 

…if the slow-going first half is necessary to make possible the play’s stunning close, then the lack of efficiency is justified. The haunting feeling with which this production sends the audience out of the theater is, after all, the goal of all great tragedy.

Read the full review online at NJ.com

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Examiner.com: “New Production of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ is Powerful”

One of the most important books that emerged about life during World War II was “The Diary of Anne Frank.” It was written by a young girl who aspired to become a writer someday. She was not allowed to grow up and live her life so all that we have left from her is the very moving account of what she and her family along with four other people went through as Jews during World War II in Amsterdam. The plot of the book is not a surprise in this play. However, the production that opened on Oct. 17 at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey provides remarkable acting. Through careful direction, the show becomes very powerful to see and one that will be of interest to those who are already familiar with it as well as new viewers.

Peter Van Daan, is a rather sad young man who has very little confidence, but just wants to be loved. This role is played by Sean Hudock.

Because the characters are so well developed, the final scenes in this show are difficult to watch.

The conclusion is so moving that a moment of silence at the end to pay reverence to the memory of all who perished in this horrible genocide would be in in order. It is difficult to walk out of the theater onto the peaceful campus of Drew University where life is taking place in a normal way. That’s how powerful this show is. Don’t miss it

Read the full review online at Examiner.com

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Daily Record: Shakespeare Theatre presents ‘Diary of Anne Frank’

Of course, one can always read Anne’s story, but seeing these characters on stage, going through the motions of “normal” everyday life — sleeping, eating, playing cards — makes the situation all the more palpable. We cringe whenever we hear strange voices in the distance; we revel in the rare pleasures of a slice of spice cake or a sweet precious strawberry.

Carol Halstead and Anthony Cochrane bring color and some humor to the story as the less than noble Van Daans, while Sean Hudock and Lauriel Friedman are appealing as the shy Peter and Anne’s sensible older sister, Margot.

Read the full review at the Daily Record

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History News Network: “Anne Frank, Attic Hideaways and the World War II Persecution of the Jews”

The Diary of Anne Frank must be one of the most produced plays in the last sixty years. The somber, sad, drama about the buoyant 13 year old girl who hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam with her family during World War II has touched the hearts of people the world over. You would not think yet another staging of it would still move people as it did years ago.

It does. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey opened its version of the play on Saturday at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, and it is a gut-wrenching production highlighted by superb acting, sharp direction, a marvelous set and haunting radio broadcasts. Yet, after all these years, it is still the poignant story of a young teenager trying to make sense of the world and her place in it amidst the horror of World War II and the Holocaust, that drives the story and makes you quiver in both sadness for the trapped Franks, and all the Jews, and in hatred for their Nazi oppressors.

Read the full review online at History News Network

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CentralJersey.com: ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ A Story That Should Be Seen, At Shakespeare Theatre

Considering the subject, this is the kind of play you attend not to be entertained so much as to be edified. Germany is now at the center of the European resurgence (at least once the European economies get their act together). The country stands as an example of how to treat massive refugee populations, only 70 years after the last Nazi concentration camps were liberated. It’s necessary to be reminded, and Anne’s story is the best kind of reminder.

The set design by Brittany Vasta re-creates the hidden upper chambers in the office building where Anne’s father, Otto (Bryan Scott Johnson), had a business with Mr. Kraler (Michael Leigh Cook). The family settled on it as the ideal hiding place until the war was over. It’s a cramped, bare space, shared by Otto, his wife Edith (Jacqueline Antaramian), their daughters Anne (Emmanuelle Nadeau) and Margot (Lauriel Friedman), friends Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan (Anthony Cochrane and Carol Halstead) and their son Peter (Sean Hudock), and the dentist Mr. Dussel (Patrick Toon). All the cast members, directed by Joseph Discher, are intense.

Read the full review online at CentralJersey.com