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9/13/2023          THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE    Synchronicity Theatre


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Once in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.


An old woman gives her granddaughter, Abilene, the rabbit.  Abilene is immediately smitten and names her new friend Edward Tulane.  Edward Tulane is vain but a good listener.  After all, his face is painted on, so he can’t really talk.  Abilene loves Edward with all the unconditional passion and will of a child.  Edward does not love Abilene, because he doesn’t know how.  But he listens as Grandmother Pellegrina tells Abilene a story about a princess who also cannot love, a cautionary tale that ends with an unforeseen dinner, which shall remain undescribed here.  Pellegrina also tells Edward she is disappointed in him.


Once at the bottom of the sea, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.


A fisherman named Lawrence finds the rabbit in his nets one day.  Thinking it would make a splendid gift for his wife Nellie, who has a sadness rooted deeply inside, he takes it home.  Nellie is immediately smitten and names the rabbit Susanna, making her a rude dress of calico.  Lawrence and Nellie treat Susanna like a new child, until their adult daughter comes home.


Once buried in a land fill, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.

A dog named Lucy finds the rabbit and brings it to her master, an itinerant rambler named Bull.  Bull is immediately smitten and names the rabbit Malone, making him a pair of trousers out of an old kerchief.  The three of them, Lucy, Bull, and Malone, travel all around the country for many years, making new friends, learning about stars, avoiding the railroad detectives.


Once lying in a field near some railroad tracks, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.


A cruel farmer finds him and ties him to a pole, hoping to scare away the crows bedeviling her farm.  She names the rabbit Clyde but is far from smitten.  Before long, Clyde is stolen away by a boy named Bryce, who lives alone with his dying baby sister Sarah Ruth.  Their father is rarely there, but when he is, there are usually beatings and tears.  Sarah Ruth is immediately smitten and names the rabbit Jangles.  Bryce adds some strings to Jangles and teaches him how to dance.


Once in the city of Memphis,  there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china. Until a cruel man shatters his head.  A Doll Repairman ….


But this is where I must end the story of the rabbits made almost entirely of China, for, as you may have guessed, it was only one rabbit, one rabbit whose journey is indeed a miraculous discovery of love.  For even though he is cruelly torn from those who love him most, he finds himself somehow missing each of them in turn and in toto.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, adapted from the book by Kate DiCamillo by Dwayne Hartford, is indeed a magical and miraculous story for (slightly) older children.  It does include scenes of danger, a description of a butchered warthog, the sad tale of Nellie’s lost child, and a scene in which poor little Sarah Ruth coughs for the final time.   But I have to confess not seeing any traumatized young ones at Thursday’s matinee, merely a roomful of young faces totally enraptured by Edward’s story, and by the blithely theatrical way it is presented.


Using only four actors – a “Traveler” who is our storyteller, a man, a woman, and the voice of Edward.  Edward is played by Brandon Michael Mayes as an austere Englishman, dressed to the nines in an outfit mirroring Abilene’s favorite, wryly giving us his thoughts and observations and ponderings, and wishes and memories that only we (and perhaps Pellegrina) can hear.  Mr. Mayes (so good in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime a few years back) is a marvel, finding levels of feeling in an allegedly emotionless china doll, and recreating in us the same longings he feels himself.  Gillian Rabin is the woman, equally convincing as the young and rambunctious Abilene, as the younger and dying Sarah Ruth, as the older still-in-grief Nellie, as the dog Lucy.   Garrett McPherson creates a plethora of characters of all ages – Abilene’s busybusybusy father, the crusty old fisherman Lawrence, the freedom-loving Bull, the young Bryce.  And Eliana Marianes is our storyteller, also the mysterious Pellegrina, the talented doll repairman, and a few other surprise guests.


Mira Hirsch directs with elegance and joy, keeping the pace fast enough to  keep young attention-spans from flagging, letting Edward tell us his story, even through his painted smile.


This is a story that is throbs with heart, thrills, and emotions, that shows how even a china rabbit can bring joy to the most lost and damaged souls.  I regret missing the first staging last year, and now have to regret that it is receiving only a single week of performances before starting a tour.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!


     --  Brad Rudy   (   #SynchroTheatre  #EdwardTulane)

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