Review: With Love and a Major Organ (The Audio Play) (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre Primetime Festival)

cast - With Love and a Major Organ

With Love and a Major Organ (The Audio Play ) is part of the Primetime Festival, an online performance festival. It was live on November 3 and is now available on demand. That’s a really cool thing about digital performances, they create archives and can be presented again.

With Love and a Major Organ is a love story about love,  an adult fairy tale about giving your heart to someone. Literally, your actual heart. It’s about waking up and realizing that you have a heart and waking up and realizing that you don’t have a heart.  It’s about opening your heart to feeling. It’s about GoogleShrink and online speed dating.

The story follows Anabel who meets George on the subway. She gives him her beating heart and George absconds with it. Anabel goes to Mona, George’s mother, to ask for help getting her heart back.

The play is laugh out loud funny and tearfully poignant. I was alone when I listened to it and I laughed and cried.

It was first performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2012. Since then playwright Julia Lederer has continued to develop it while the play has toured in North America and Europe. This is the first time that this  fully developed production has been produced in Canada.

Lederer’s writing is so alluring, her metaphors and similes are striking and imaginative – “Hours pass as slowly as kidney stones.” The love letters that Anabel records on cassette tapes for George are bewitching poetry, full of fabulous alliteration and thrilling language.

We don’t often have a chance to hear language this original.  It’s a gift. I want everyone to hear it, to be immersed in it, to revel in the words.

The cast is wonderful. Michela Cannon as Anabel with her Scottish accent sounds so pragmatic when she’s anything but. In the second half of the play she’s completely different without her heart. She doesn’t care about anything and doesn’t care that she doesn’t care.

Mona – Fiona Reid – can’t let go of her need to take care of her adult son. She’s consulting GoogleShrink (which should absolutely be a real thing) which is advising her to dip her toe in the water of sociability with online speed dating (which absolutely shouldn’t be a real thing). In the second half she loosens up and goes speed dating in person.

George – Kaleb Alexander – doesn’t say much in the first half. He sounds pretty dull. He shines in the second half once he discovers what life is like with a heart – even though it isn’t really his.

The only character that doesn’t do an about-face in the second half is the Narrator, Jennifer Villaverde. She keeps calmly narrating and providing lovely asides.

Listening to With Love and a Major Organ is the best 78 minutes I’ve spent in ages. You really should listen to it. You don’t have to go anywhere, no mask, no distancing, you don’t need a jacket, you just have to make yourself comfy at home. It will do your heart good.


Photo of the cast and crew of With Love and a Major Organ (The Audio Play) provided by the company