'Edward Tulane' playing one more weekend

December 15 - Cottage Theatre’s holiday show this year is “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” a play based on the story by Newberry Medalist Kate DiCamillo. The 90-minute show tells the tale of a China rabbit given to a young girl, Abilene, by her grandmother. The rabbit is exquisite, with furry ears and tail and a complete wardrobe that includes red silk pajamas and a gold pocket watch. Abilene names him Edward, and of course shares her last name, Tulane.

The set for this show was wonderful, utilizing every inch of the theater’s available space. A small area stage right became a campground, fire and all. The large construct in the middle of the stage was at times a shadow puppet screen and at others a train box car.

The small cast played multiple parts as the story unfolded, using pieces of clothing and hats, even lengths of fabric found onstage. Suspending disbelief over these character changes was easy for an audience willing to believe that the rabbit was a doll and a man simultaneously.

The man, Stuart McClean, is essential for us to share in the thoughts and feelings of Edward the China rabbit, and if that sounds confusing, it was for only a minute. We learn that Edward is a very self-involved rabbit, aloof and only interested in himself.

McClean manages to keep Edward likable and plays his part with energy.

Also helping guide us through Edward’s journey is The Traveler, played by Eliza Roaring Springs. She plays the narrator and Abilene’s grandmother and brings a twinkle in her eyes to offset the gravity of some pronouncements. She navigated an enormous line load smoothly and was a delight to watch.

No cast member was less than stellar. Alexander Carr (Man Two), Hailey Eckhart (Woman One), Dale Flynn (Man One) and Amy Weinkauf (Woman Two) all brought warmth and energy to their parts. They switched characters seamlessly and supported Director Kari Boldon Welch’s perfect pacing.

There are some dark moments in the play: the death of a young girl with consumption, cruelty towards a dog, the plight of depression-era parents. Edward’s journey, of course, had to have some difficulties.

In her brief speech before the show, Susan Goes mentioned that an audience of 125 children had seen a matinee of this show. And although the acting, staging and pacing of this show were all excellent, I questioned the appropriateness of its choice as a mainstage offering in the CT’s schedule. A toy learning the meaning of life is not something most adults would choose for an evening’s entertainment. Perhaps it’s time for the Cottage Theatre to plan a couple of children’s shows as “matinee only.” That would leave some great spaces available for dramas, comedies and other adult fare. I’d like that a lot.

“The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” runs through Dec. 18, 7:30 evening performances and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. There was an ASL interpreted performance Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m.

People can go to cottagetheatre.org or call 541-942-8001 for ticket availability.