Are we looking at the kitchen table in Anne Frank's hideout, or the Hollywood studio canteen where Veronica Lake relaxed between takes? In Andrea Kleine's new Memoir Never Was (secret tales from the annex), which opens Thursday at P.S. 122, the space between the theater's columns could be either, a 1940s "waiting room" where two icons of the era pass the time before they vanish.
"They both had to disappear in order to become their iconic selves," says Kleine, who, while rereading Frank's diary, was working in a photo archive. She became fascinated with old pictures of Lake, "glamour poses from the '40s, and then shots from a book tour when she was older. She'd completely dropped out of Hollywood; she was an alcoholic, and some people think she was schizophrenic. Anne Frank had a movie-star obsession, and Veronica Lake was entrapped by Hollywood."
Kleine, a Virginian, came to New York at 17 "to be a serious actress, and I fell in love with dance. I didn't like acting; it made me really depressed." While a student at NYU's Experimental Theater Wing, she found her way to Sara Pearson's classes in another department, and picked up clues about "getting to emotional expression without being too melodramatic," as well as strategies for working collaboratively, which she does with the cast of actors and dancers she's assembled for her new work. A slim woman of 29 with Buster Brown hair, she's so focused that her demonstrations of gestures for her colleagues have the crispness of line drawings.