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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Let's start with the title of Julia Lederer's play at Boston Court Theatre: With Love and a Major Organ.

That's how our heroine signs a love letter. Anabel is leaving a guy from the subway anonymous love letters. Well, not exactly love letters, more love cassettes. Anabel is old school in a sort of retro hipster kind of way and chooses to communicate her love into a Walkman sized tape recorder. Remember Walkmans? Those pre-digital-era iPods where the mechanics of everything were more physically apparent and awkward. Anabel is more suited for that world where she can spill her feelings of hidden, poetic passion into a tiny device. That way all her feelings can be captured. Not with the flatness of an email or the inarticulate simplification of an emoji but all the peaks and valleys of human speech and emotion.

At its simplest level, With Love and a Major Organ is about a girl who falls in love with a guy she only knows through their shared subway rides. She decides to confess her love onto those tapes and deliver them to him with her heart -- her actual beating heart. That's the "Major Organ" of the title.

The play operates as an extended poetic metaphor that, in a magical realism sort of way, equates the process of falling in love with actually carving out a piece of your chest and entrusting it to another person.

Of course, love isn't easy and that guy she's smitten with on the subway... he's got Mommy issues and disappears with her heart.

Mom makes up the third character of our trio. She's got love issues of her own. Not only is she a little too attached to her 31 year-old son, she's also taken to Internet speed dating at the advice of "Google Shrink" her online, AI, psychological counselor.

Sort of makes you yearn for the simple technology of that Walkman, doesn't it?

That's certainly the play's stance, that maybe all this technology is getting in the way of something far more primal - the exchanging of organs.

With Love and a Major Organ has a lot going for it. The three actors can all handle the lyrical, metaphor rich language and give it some shape rather than just letting it spill out on the stage. That's not easy. The design is clever with sets, lights, costumes and projections working together to provide not only a sense of motion but also e-motion - helping us track the amorous journey of the characters.

With Love and a Major Organ is a simple play. Its heart, if you'll forgive the pun, is in the pain and courage that comes with falling in love. That simple story doesn't quite fill the 90 minutes so the middle gets a little squishy. Take it from a guy who's tried to extend one too many metaphors - it's tricky business.

If you can forgive the show's gratuitous flights of fancy and a technology subplot that never really lands, it's a sweet, poetic, modern love story.

With Love and a Major Organ plays at the Theatre at Boston Court in Pasadena through November 5.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.


Running time: 90 minutes no intermission.

Photo: Bonita Friedericy and Daisuke Tsuji in With Love and a Major Organ (Jenny Graham)

CREDITS

Host:
Anthony Byrnes

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