2013 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: With Love and a Major Organ (QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre)

There’s a very good reason that QuestionMark-Exclamation Theatre’s initial Toronto Fringe Festival run of With Love and a Major Organ sold out basically every single show. I would be terribly surprised and possibly even appalled if the same didn’t happen with its Next Stage Theatre Festival remount. If you’ve ever dabbled in love, heartbreak, the physical manifestations of feelings, therapy sessions, speed-dating, social media and/or public transit, you will have no qualms surrendering yourself for an hour to playwright Julia Lederer’s whimsy.

A cast of three brings to life the story of a passionate young woman who records messages of extremely profound love (on tape) for a strange man she encounters frequently on the subway, and the man’s romantically frustrated mother who seeks therapy from Google. The main interaction between the young woman – acted with great verve and electrifying energy by Julia Lederer – and the man on the subway who subsequently steals her heart – a naively gentle, yet striking performance from comedian Robin Archer – is peppered with interjections of the mother’s – played with a light touch, deft timing and an endearingly skittish tragic air by Martha Ross – attempted forays back into the dating world.

While the performances of each actor were engaging, honest, and just plain enjoyable to watch, I was struck with how potent the text was. The language Lederer uses in her dialogue is both poetic and accessible, entangling both charm and humour together, with spirited lamentations about the difficulties of that four letter word we find so perplexing (no, the other one). There’s a playful atmosphere to the show that keeps the comedic energy up without deterring from the slight melancholic tone set up with Ross’s opening monologue. Don’t get me wrong though, the play isn’t a downer by any means and the ending doesn’t disappoint or make you want to ball your eyes out.

With Love and a Major Organ is a love story that stares the ridiculousness of putting faith in a (literal) blood-spurting organ in the face and laughs both at it and with it. Whether your heart is made of flesh, stone, paper, ice or essentially non-existent, I’m fairly sure you’ll agree. Be careful though, you might end up leaving your heart behind in the Factory Theatre’s studio space. I think I might have.


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