April 25, 2019
How does one explain or even begin to describe a play in which the main character is an inanimate object?
The Edward Tulane of our story is a rabbit made of china. He isn't magic. He doesn't talk or move. And yet, as the Storyteller makes clear at the start of the play, "He has his thoughts."
Two-time Newbery medallist Kate DiCamillo's novel, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2006), certainly has an epic, even magical, quality to it. But then, DiCamillo is known for such diverse and fantastic stories as The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and Flora and Ulysses. And while her books may be hard to describe, and harder to pigeonhole into one genre, they all "work," as evidenced by her popularity and numerous awards.
Dwayne Hartford's clever stage adaptation does full justice to DiCamillo's beautiful writing. In it, Edward is voiced by an actor who sits on the edge of the stage. The other actors interact with the toy rabbit and do not hear Edward. (Much of the play's comedy comes from the disparity between how various people react to the toy, and what Edward is actually thinking.) His journey includes significant growth in his understanding of love and empathy, and the joy -- and cost -- of caring about others.
Four seasoned afO actors play more than two dozen roles between them. Lorraine Knox is the Storyteller, as well as several other small character roles. Stacey Kuster is the Woman, and portrays two of the children who love Edward, as well as several other personalities -- including a dog! Michael Wilhelm as the Man plays a father, a fisherman, a hobo, and a loyal little boy. Kira Downey plays several roles, including Pellegrina, the grandmother who buys Edward in the first place, but who tells him, "You disappoint me," before sending him on his miraculous journey.
Making his afO debut, Mitch Harper voices the rabbit, and embodies him in one surreal "dream" sequence. The complex lighting design is by Jeff Salisbury; sound design and original music are handled by afO veteran Scott Kump.
Edward Tulane is afO's "all ages" show for this season. It runs about 80 minutes with no intermission. The play does have a couple of moments of mild peril and some very touching and sad scenes as well. Especially sensitive children may be helped by reading the book before they see the play.
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