the domino heart by Matthew Edison, directed by Michael Kessler, with Rosemary Dunsmore, David Fox and Raoul Bhaneja. Presented by Tarragon Theatre and Jack in the Black at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to April 27, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $21-$26, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN
You know you're watching something special when 90 coughless, fidgetless minutes go by as quickly -- to borrow an image reworked in Matthew Edison's luminous first play -- as a heartbeat. The Domino Heart consists of three characters connected to each other by one transplanted heart. In consecutive half-hour monologues (and a coda that brings the play full circle), we learn that middle-aged professor Cara (Rosemary Dunsmore) has lost her husband in a car accident; that Mortimer Wright (David Fox), a playful old bachelor minister, is set to receive the man's heart; and that Leo (Raoul Bhaneja), a cynical 30-something advertising exec, ends up with the organ.
The structure seems simple, even simplistic, but Edison, a fine actor in his own right, makes us see three complete (and very different) people in the stories they tell. Having all three characters onstage throughout -- two in shadow on Kelly Wolf's autumnal set -- lets us imagine a shared history among them, and ultimately among us. Images and motifs recur, but never too obviously.
Edison's evocative words are performed by a trio of actors who couldn't be better. Dunsmore's wife is ripped apart by her part in the events leading up to her husband's death; Fox eschews his usual gruffness for something young and transcendent and completely in character for someone shaped by an event in his youth; and Bhaneja's self-destructive exec horrifies with his dead-eyed, seen-it-all smugness that hides fear and pain.
Michael Kessler's production, like the play, is quiet but cumulatively powerful. It will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.