In the beginning a little girl lived in a house on Egypt Street. One day her grandmother gave her a very fine rabbit, almost three feet tall, made mostly of china, with real rabbit fur for its ears. Those of you who’ve read Kate DiCamillo’s novel The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane know what comes next: As fine as Edward Tulane looked (for that was the toy rabbit’s name), he was not a very nice rabbit. He was, in fact, exceedingly vain and careless of other creatures’ feelings, although the little girl showered him with love.
You might say that Edward was selfish and irritating. You might say he was callous, even cruel. You might also ask, why, then, should we care? And that’s where at least a part of the miracle comes in. Because, as things turn out, we do. We care very much.
A remarkable emotional alchemy is taking place through April 24 inside Portland’s intimate Dolores Winningstad Theatre, which is hosting a swift and smart and breathless stage version of DiCamillo’s 2006 tale, adapted for a small and nimble cast by Dwayne Hartford. Oregon Children’s Theatre’s new production, under Marcella Crowson’s direction and performed on a spare and clever trap-door set designed by Polly Robbins, is very, very fine: a deft picaresque that somehow gives this story of a rather silly rabbit a good deal of humor and joy and suspense and yearning, and an altogether unexpected (for me, at any rate) emotional depth.