Fans of Sarah Ruhl’s particular brand of whimsy, magical realism, and romance will fall especially hard for With Love And A Major Organ, Julia Lederer’s quirky, charming romcom now getting a playwright’s-dream West Coast Premiere at The Theatre @ Boston Court.

Meet 50something Mona (Bonita Friedericy), who thirty years ago decided that the best way to protect her infant son George (Daisuke Tsuji) from ever having his heart broken as hers once was was to have it surgically replaced by one made of paper, leaving him with both an organ incapable of being shattered and a solitary life into which a young female Subway Rider (Paige Lindsey White) will soon attempt entry by making vain attempts to strike up conversations with a man who remains stubbornly oblivious despite how many times the twosome keep getting thrust into each other’s arms at abrupt station stops.

Subway Rider then comes up with a plan straight out of the ‘80s. She will record voice messages on cassette tapes, sneak them into his pocket, and hope for the best.

As Mona reenters the dating world though online “speed dating” (with a little help from the virtual therapists of GoogleShrink), Subway Rider persists in her vain attempts to capture George’s interest until at long last a two-word response (one on Side A and the other on Side B) prompts her to take desperate measures.

Boston Court reveals precisely what those measures are in the second sentence of their online blurb, more than a bit of a spoiler for an event that doesn’t happen till about halfway in, so if by chance you haven’t read to what lengths S.R. goes to win George’s love, I’ll allow you the thrill of discovery.

Suffice it to say that in a world where a heart can actually be made of paper, all attempts at logic are futile and the smartest thing an audience member can do is simply sit back, go with the flow, and root for the happy ending any romantic knows in his or her own beating heart is the made-for-each-other duo’s due.

Not that playwright Lederer allows George and Subway Rider much chance to interact along the way, and indeed much of With Love And A Major Organ gets told in monologs.

Still, a lack of physical proximity didn’t stop Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan from falling for each other in Sleepless In Seattle, and Lederer is nothing if not poetic of pen. (“Your voice twists my tangled spaghetti guts around a silver fork, smooth, shiny and clean.” “You back me up better than any hard drive.”)

With Love And A Major Organ would be a charmer even in the barest-bones production provided it starred actors the caliber of White, Tsuji, and Friedercy, all of whom deliver performances that reveal as much beneath the surface as meets the eye under Jessica Kubzansky’s astute direction.

Still, what makes Lederer’s comedy’s West Coast Premiere a particular standout are the inspired contributions of as gifted a design team as any director and cast could wish for.

Scenic designer François-Pierre Couture suggests a subway car with a pair of sliding doors, some movable poles and benches, and a translucent backdrop behind which Hana S. Kim gives us scurrying passengers at once magician and real, just part of yet another of Kim’s brilliant projection designs, and that’s just part of what Couture’s set can do,

Lighting designers Elizabeth Harper and Rose Malone and composer-sound designer John Nobori up the electricity every step of the way as Denitsa Blitznakova’s costumes add to the whimsy. (Special snaps to the subtle ways George gradually integrates blood-red accessorizes into his shades-of-gray gear.) And just wait till choreographer Jordan Marinov gives George and his would-be inamorata a dream dance sequence that is positively dreamy.

 Katherine Hoevers is assistant director. Natalie Figaredo is production stage manager. Patrick Hurley is dramaturg.

Casting is by Julia Flores. Elena Campbell-Martinez, Emma Fassler, and Josh Odess-Rubin are understudies.

Whimsical, magical, and authentically real in its depiction of the vagaries of the human heart, With Love And A Major Organ will likely touch anyone’s major organ provided it’s neither paper nor stone. It definitely touched mine.

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The Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena.

–Steven Stanley
October 15, 2017
Photos: Jenny Graham



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