Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
If the idea of a fancy doll traveling cross-country during the Great Depression sounds simultaneously trite and depressing, you are not alone. Just two minutes after the house lights went down at People's Light I assumed I had already seen everything a play like this had to offer. I could not have been more wrong. Before those lights came back up I was deeply moved by complex and tender relationships, surprised by casual cruelty, and completely invested in Edward's story. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is less about a traveling doll and more about universal experiences of loss and longing. It is about holes in people's lives so deep they might be temporarily filled by a companion made almost entirely of porcelain. And, most of all, it is about the quiet magic of human love.
The ability of the play to transcend its premise lies in part with the excellent cast, all of whom play a multitude of roles and instruments. Charlie DelMarcelle (The Musician) gives a simple and endearing performance as Edward. Reggie D. White (The Man) radiates a sense of friendly warmth as easygoing railroad hobo Bull and is completely devastating in the role of young Bryce. Emily Peterson (The Woman) is by turns friendly, mysterious and vile. Peterson has the uncanny ability to make her characters seem like people you have met before. To say that this cast keeps the action crystal clear despite the rapid fire character changes and the lack of elaborate costumes is an understatement. Every character, no matter how briefly they appear, is rich with nuance, history and motivation. Dana Omar (The Woman) has the unenviable task of playing a couple of children. She rises to the challenge, bringing to life more than one child you will want to wrap your arms around and take home with you.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is based on the novel by two-time Newbery Medal-winning author Kate DiCamillo, but director Stuart Carden's production feels mature and polished. Original music by Erik Hellman and Jessie Fisher sets just the right tone and elevates the entire production. The cast are better actors than they are musicians, but that does nothing to diminish the pleasure of watching this unique and whimsical parable.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, through June 4, 2017, at People's Light, Leonard C. Haas Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA. For tickets call 610-644-3500 or visit peopleslight.org.