RUNE ARLIDGE by Michael Healey, with Ari Cohen, John Dolan, Fiona Reid, Rick Roberts, Jane Spidell, Julie Stewart and Severn Thompson. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman). Runs to April 4, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $26-$32, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN
The ambitious Rune Arlidge takes the audience on a 25-year journey into the lives of a family of women. It pulls the curtain back every decade or so to let us peer into a summer cottage day of events large and small. Michael Healey 's three-act play is a kind of adventure, for we're thrust in without much preparation and have to piece some of the material together ourselves. At its core is the title character ( Jane Spidell ), who seems to attract men without even trying, which probably amazes her garrulous, acerbic mother, Frances ( Fiona Reid ), and medicated sister, Michelle ( Julie Stewart ).
Men aren't pivotal here, but revolve around these women. Fathers are noticeably absent. Law student Matthew ( Rick Roberts ) and name-dropping Harvar ( Ari Cohen ) woo Rune, while handymen Tom and Tom Jr. (both played by John Dolan ) have an eye for the women generally.
Healey, who has a sharp sense of humour, has written a comedy of character rather than narrative. The story, which includes a series of flirtations, rambles at times. But it's often fascinating to watch the children turn into their parents, yet, as they grow older, also become more of what they were as kids.
Under Leah Cherniak 's quiet direction, the always splendid Spidell catches all of Rune's yo-yo connections to people and suggests some unspoken well of need we can only guess at, while Reid brings a touch of sadness to the memory-ridden Frances, and Stewart believably gives Michelle an increasing note of panic.
Roberts has charm as boy-next-door Matthew, and Cohen's brash Harvar is a comic gem. Still, the two Toms and Lillian, the third female generation in the family, feel underwritten, at times plot devices rather than characters, despite the game efforts of actors Dolan and Severn Thompson .