Review by Ann Holt
Opening Night of “Vino Veritas” also celebrated the 100th play presented by the Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea, Michigan. The very funny dark comedy by Michigan native David MacGregor had its premier there in 2008.
Waiting for best friends to show up for snacks and a drink before heading out to the annual Halloween costume party, Phil and Lauren bicker and snipe at each other. When Ridley and Claire arrive, Lauren suggests drinking a bottle of South American ceremonial wine made from the skin of blue dart tree frogs. What commences is an evening of surprises and bitter truths. Once three of the characters have consumed the wine, they begin asking the usual questions like how do you want to die? And what is your favorite movie? The audience is totally engrossed and the first act flies by.
After the intermission, the discussions become more universal and intense covering parenting, sex, religion, 9/11, and personal tragedy. The consequences are sobering. We get to know the inner feelings of these four people and realize that “every day is a day that changes everything for someone.” There are a lot of embarrassing, awkward situations, gasps, and explosive laughter as the audience recognizes similar feelings and situations.
Ably directed by Rhiannon Ragland, the ensemble cast features Kate Thomsen (Lauren), David Bendena (Phil), Aphrodite Nikolovski (Claire) and Alex Leydenfrost (Ridley). With the playwright’s realistic dialogue, and in such an intimate space, the feeling of eavesdropping is unavoidable.
The exquisite set design is by Sarah Pearline, but because it is angled towards two of the three seating areas it is difficult for those seated to the left of the stage to watch comfortably. If you go, ask for seats in the center section or to the right of the stage.
Everything else works beautifully from the properties by Danna Segrest, costumes by Katherine Nelson, lighting by Dana White to the sound by Tom Whalen. Thomas Macias is the stage manager.
Comparisons can be made to “God of Carnage” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff,” but MacGregor, a professor of writing and film at Wayne State University, has a firm grasp of the question he wants to pursue and provides an answer for us. “Do you really want the truth or do you only want the truth you want to hear.”
MacGregor’s other works performed on the Purple Rose stage include “The Late Great Henry Boyle” (2006), “Gravity (2010)”, and “Consider the Oyster” (2011). In 2013, “Vino Veritas” was adapted to the screen and starred Carrie Preston and Bernard White.
The show runs under two hours with one 15-minute intermission and contains adult language.
Performance hours are Wednesdays at 3 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. The production runs through Saturday, May 27.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 734-433-7673 or online at www. purplerosetheatre.org. The Purple Rose Theatre is located at 137 Park St., Chelsea.