The conceit of toys with rich internal lives has entertained generations from Pinocchio to Toy Story, but none as beautifully as The Velveteen Rabbit. Seemingly written for dance, this 1922 children's story is overflowing with tender, lyrical wistfulness and dynamic transformation: A humble stuffed rabbit, surrounded by superior mechanical toys "full of modern ideas," is taught about the power of love by a rickety old toy horse. Does it hurt? Sometimes. Does it happen all at once? By the time you are real, explains the ever-truthful Skin Horse, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
For over 25 years, ODC has used vivid costumes designed by award-winning children's illustrator Brian Wildsmith, and a lovely narration by British stage performer Geoff Hoyle, to bring this brilliant toy box to life. And while the threat of scarlet fever and a flaming trash heap may not seem appropriate for children as young as three, a Nursery Magic Fairy and a stage full of scampering, tumbling bunnies trumps a wooden nutcracker any day.
The Velveteen Rabbit starts Friday, Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. (and runs through Dec. 9) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third St.), S.F. Admission is $15-$47.