Review: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

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Sensitive Mom Criers (those of you who cry at heart-warming commercials and Pixar films – SMCs for short), you need to PREPARE yourselves before attending Oregon Children Theater’s performance of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Preparation should include loading up on pocket-sized Kleenex packages and practicing holding back choking sobs in the middle of a packed theater.

As a SMC myself, let me tell you what this play is about. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane tells the story of a toy rabbit, who is given as a present to a little girl named Abilene. The little girl absolutely adores her toy rabbit, which she names Edward Tulane. But the audience, who can hear the rabbit’s thoughts, learn that the rabbit does not care for little Abilene. In fact, Edward does not care for anyone because he does not know what love is. He is a vain and self-centered toy.

But Edward is about to learn some hard life lessons about love, loss and hope when he gets separated from Abilene during a sea voyage. Along the way, he gets picked up by a fisherman and his wife, who is still grieving the death of her youngest son and props Edward up in his old high chair. (A lump in my throat starts to form here.)

Later, he comes under the ownership of a hobo and his dog. The hobo’s friends find that Edward is a great keeper of secrets, so they take turns telling Edward about the children they have left behind on their journey to find employment. (The SMC behind me starts to sniffle.)

After seven years on the road, Edward finds himself living with a boy and his sister, who is dying of a mysterious coughing illness. Edward finds that he loves the siblings and loves making the sister laugh. After a very sad ending to this vignette, he ends up on a city street corner with the boy who is sobbing while trying to make Edward dance for money. (SMC’s all around me are crying at this point.)

Tragedy strikes in a diner, prompting the child behind me to ask her parent, “Does the rabbit go to heaven?” This is Toy Story/Velveteen Rabbit/Little Tin Soldier-level of sadness. But unlike some of those stories, Edward Tulane has a happy ending. He is made whole again (and gets a bit of grief-counseling from a porcelain doll to boot).

So, SMCs, take heart: This is a 5-Kleenex story. But it is also one of the sweetest and most thought-provoking stories I have ever seen performed on a Portland stage.

And I think it’s worth mentioning that the reason this story tugs at the heartstrings so strongly is largely due to the cast of five actors, who bring all of these characters to life. The actors play multiple characters without making complicated costume changes. There are no flashy costumes, no brightly colored sets. The focus is on bringing out the emotion and drama of the story.

My 10-year-old son sat on the edge of his seat the whole time and enjoyed it. But younger kids might have a hard time sitting through the 70-minute performance without an intermission. (Oregon Children’s Theater advises that this show is best for ages 7+.)

Come early to the show to enjoy the craft table out in the lobby, hosted by Art ala Carte. Kids can sit at the table and make their own rabbit puppets out of fabric scraps and paper.

Be sure to stay a few minutes after the show to get your program autographed by the entire cast. Nathan was able to get a few crucial questions answered directly by the cast members (“Exactly how many rabbit dolls were used in this production?”)

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane runs until April 24 at the Winningstad Theater in downtown Portland. Tickets run $14-28 each, and can be purchased through Oregon Children’s Theater’s website (octc.org/edward-tulane). SMCs unite! And don’t forget your Kleenex!

MaryJo Monroe

MaryJo Monroe

MaryJo Monroe has been a professional organizer with her company reSPACEd for 10 years. When she’s not helping families dig out from their stuff, she enjoys hiking and biking around her North Portland neighborhood with her 11-year-old son and husband.
MaryJo Monroe