BWW Review: Childsplay Presents THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE ~ A Triumph Of The Heart!
In 2014, I reviewed Childsplay's production of THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, beautifully conceived and directed by David Saar, the company's esteemed founder and artistic director. It was a profoundly inspired and moving production, so much so that, in the last line of my account, I hoped that the company would again, before long, reprise it. Thankfully, it has, and, under the direction of Saar's successor, Dwayne Hartford, the show is as powerful and poignant in its emotional punch as it was then.
The play, based on Kate DiCamillo's classic novel, follows the tumultuous but ultimately enlightening odyssey of a china rabbit doll named Edward. He is the prized possession of a 10-year-old named Abilene who adorns him in the finest of clothes and places him in prominent positions throughout the household on Egypt Street. The twist in the tale is that Edward has a mind of his own and a voice that bespeaks conceit and arrogance. Only Abilene's grandmother, Pellegrina, discerns Edward's frailty of character and, in the telling of a parable about a warthog, warns of the peril that befalls to those who do not awaken to a simple truth about life: "If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless."
Grasped from Abilene's arms and tossed into the sea, Edward is swept into the lives of others with whom he finds brief refuge. Whether retrieved in the net of a fisherman, pulled from a garbage dump, or riding the rails, Edward's encounters with his various saviors open his eyes wide to Pellegrina's words of wisdom. Whether adrift or uncertain about ever seeing Abilene again, Edward looks to the stars and finds comfort in the reliable presence of the constellations.
Even after being smashed into twenty-one pieces...and then restored...and relegated to a shelf in a doll shop, Edward carries with him the names and the stories of those with whom he has travelled and who have loved him. How can it be otherwise that the miracle of Edward's journey is the journey itself, the inevitable revelation about the power of love, and his ultimate reclamation!
To bring life to the multiple characters that populate the journey, the original cast ~ Katie McFadzen, David Dickinson, Kyle Sorrell, and Debra K. Stevens ~ with the addition of Ricky Araiza, takes to the stage and once again breathes and passion and authenticity into the action. It's a joyous and stellar reunion of seasoned actors who move us with their sensitively defined portrayals. Mr. Sorrell is exceptional, serving as Edward's voice and, with subtle expression and movement, conveying the doll's moods of vulnerability and tenderness.
The journey across time and space is simply but elegantly conveyed by Jeff Thomson's set and the imaginative employment of a circular rotating stage, dramatic projections of the elements, and Adriana Diaz's period costumes ~ all accompanied by the soulful harmonies of harmonica and guitar.
In short, THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE is a triumph of the heart. Let us hope that it will become a Childsplay tradition ~ for the benefit of future audiences, children and their families, who may come to know its profound meaning.
THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE runs on Saturdays and Sundays through October 13th at the Herberger Theater Center's Stage West in Phoenix.
Footnote: EDWARD TULANE will premiere as an opera at the Minnesota Opera from March 21st through the 29th, 2020 ~ at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN.
Photo credit to Tim Trumble