Theater review: 'Compulsion' 2.5 stars
Beware of sitting too close to Mandy Patinkin. You might begin to fear for your own safety.
The actor, who has a reputation for delivering explosive, high-energy performances, is even more extreme and manic than usual as Sid Silver, a fanatical, self-torturing author whose obsession, passion and paranoia concerning Anne Frank’s diary destroy his professional and personal life.
Rinne Groff’s drama “Compulsion” is based on the true story of Meyer Levin, who fought to get the diary published and hoped to write the stage adaptation himself. But when the gig went to other writers who downplayed the story’s ethnic aspects to make it acceptable for a wider audience, Levin spent years suing for breach of contract and fighting to get his adaptation produced.
Oskar Eustis’ production employs a cast of three actors (Patinkin plus Hannah Cabell and Matte Osian, who play numerous roles), as well as a number of marionettes — including one for Anne Frank — operated by puppeteers stationed on a catwalk.
The puppetry is visually impressive, but comes off as unnecessary. Similarly, Patinkin’s high-strung performance is so loud, forceful and over the top that it takes attention away from the story.
Much of “Compulsion” would benefit from substantial editing — the show especially could do without the creepy fantasy sequence where Anne Frank joins Sid and his wife in bed. But it remains a modern tragedy that offers a unique angle on the story of the Holocaust’s most well-known victim.
If you go: “Compulsion” plays at the Public Theater through March 13. 425 Lafayette St., 212-967-7555, publictheater.org