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Open your heart

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Edward Tulane, Sarah Ruth (Tess Haws), and Lawrence the fisherman (Jason Haws). Photo credit: Alexis Sarah

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at Olympia Family Theater is something special. It is unlike anything ever seen at OFT, a theater specializing in children's plays performed by mostly adult actors -- with on rare occasions an adult play. This play appeals to all ages. I often watch the children in the audience at OFT. They laugh, they play, and they applaud throughout the shows. But not this time. This time they sat in rapt attention, totally immersed in the life adventures of Edward Tulane, a china-doll rabbit. Adults in the audience were equally spellbound.

The Miraculous Journey is a poignant play, heartbreaking in parts, but with a joyful, uplifting resolution.

Edward Tulane is an expensive, handmade china rabbit loved by a little girl named Abeline (played by Kate Ayers, who also plays Nellie, Lucy the dog, an old woman, a grown-up Abeline, and others). During a lifetime of being handled, mishandled, and passed from hand-to-hand, Edward is tossed in the ocean and thrown on a trash heap; he is loved and rejected, used as a scarecrow, and he rides the rails with a hobo and his daughter. The story is narrated by the Traveler (Carolyn Willems Van Dijk, who also plays Pilligrina, a boy on a ship, a shopper in a fishing village, a fisherman's daughter, a hobo and a waitress). The musician (Ted Ryle) acts as the voice of Edward, who the Traveler tells us can't speak for himself because his mouth is only painted on. Jason Haws plays Abeline's father, Lawrence the fisherman, Bull the hobo, Bryce the boy and Lucius Clarke the dollmaker. These are the only actors called for in Dwayne Hartford's original adaptation of the novel by Kate DiCamillo, but director Kathy Dorgan got permission from the playwright to add one more actor, 8-year-old Tess Haws as a dying little girl who is comforted by Edward.

The theme of this lovely tale is summed up when Edward says, "I'm done with being loved. I'm done with loving. It's too painful" and he is told, "Open your heart. Someone will come. Someone will come for you. But first you must open your heart."

The acting by everyone in the cast is outstanding. Seldom if ever will audiences see so much expressed so subtly as is demonstrated by Ryle, the voice and the heart of Edward. Ayers, Haws and Van Dijk persuasively play many diverse characters of different sexes and ages.  

Jill Carter's set is delightful, with lovely scenic painting and her signature hinged panels to easily and unobtrusively change scenes.

Doll-making lead Jamie Jenson and the team: Liam Mooney, Maia O'Brien and Jonnita Thompson did a great job of creating five different Edward dolls, needed for the changes he suffers throughout his lifetime.

THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, 7 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, through April 1, $13-$19, Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.570.1638,

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