IndyFringe: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Essentially, if you see a Fringe performance listed as being by Carmel High School theatre department, just go see it. I’ve now seen four of their professional-quality IndyFringe offerings, and I am still in awe of their 2018 show.

This production, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” is a fairly new play (likely an Indiana premiere) by Dwayne Hartford based on the 2006 award-winning children’s book by Kate DiCamillo.

On Egypt Street of an American city in the 1930s, little Abilene (Kate Sullivan) is given a fine china rabbit by her grandmother Pelligrina (Madison Alig). Abilene names him Edward Tulane, and adores him – as she should, the self-centered rabbit thinks. The spoiled, well-dressed rabbit silently makes demands that apparently only Pelligrina can hear, so she tells Abilene a bedtime story for Edward to also hear, a dark tale that puzzles the china toy.

Then, during a sea cruise, Edward falls overboard and his long journey begins. He becomes “Susanna,” the proxy child of a fisherman (Micah Phillips) and his wife (Sullivan); “Malone,” the companion and keeper of secrets for hobo Bull (Phillips) and his dog Lucy (Eden Hammond); “Clyde,” the scarecrow on the farm of an Old Lady (Alig); and “Jangles,” the treasured dancing doll of doomed Sarah Ruth (Juliet Malherbe, also our Narrator) and her loving brother Bryce (Sam Tiek), who makes him kick to his harmonica playing for nickels on the streets of Memphis, Tenn. However, an angry diner owner (Aaron Young) brings the journey to an abrupt end.

At last, Edward sits in a doll-shop window, older and repaired – but wiser? As the novel says, “If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless.”

The play features a recurring song, “North Star,” by student director Ella Asher with Sarah Warf and Micah Phillips. Eden Hammond choreographed bits of movement. And an on-stage musician, Seth Jacobsen, strums the guitar and expresses Edward’s thoughts.

This Hans Christian Anderson-esque story with rich thematic layers and childlike wonder is excellently rendered by the teen cast and crew. Adapted to under an hour from a full-length 80-minute play, this production does not feel rushed or missing any pieces – like with Edward, the cracks don’t show. This is essential viewing for all children and kids-at-heart.

One performance remains, 1:45 p.m. today (as we post this), Saturday, Aug. 27, at the District Theatre.

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