“Vino Veritas” Serves Up a Spirited Truth at Purple Rose

By Daniel Skora

David Bendena as Phil and Kate Thomsen as Lauren

Honesty may not always be the best policy in real life, what with the feelings of other people a necessary consideration. But if comedy is your goal, requiring everyone to tell the truth is a great premise for bringing out the laughs. Purple Rose Theatre is presenting David MacGregor’s “Vino Veritas”, which, truth be told as it surely must in this case, had its world premier at the Rose during their 2007/08 season and is being revisited as they stage their 100th production since opening the doors in 1991.

Lauren and Phil are hosting a warm-up gathering for their friends Ridley and Claire before the two couples head out to an annual Halloween party. Before the guests arrive, Lauren (Kate Thomsen) throws out a bombshell to her husband: she’s become dissatisfied with her marriage because Phil (David Bendena) has lost the sense of adventure and derring-do that he had before they were married and both worked as on-location photographers. But any discussion concerning that subject must wait because their friends are at the door and already dressed in their costumes.

Aphrodite Nikolovski, Alex Leydenfrost, David Bendena, and Kate Thomsen

Ridley (Alex Leydenfrost), a doctor by profession with a matching drab personality, is unimaginatively costumed in a lab coat. His wife Claire (Aphrodite Nikolovski) is dressed as Queen Elizabeth, that’s QE the first from the 1500’s, not QE the second who currently resides at Buckingham Palace. And the beautifully detailed costume she’s wearing would be the envy of the Stratford wardrobe department, all collar and velvet and jewels.  The hosting couple will soon change into their costumes, Phil donning some cowboy gear and Lauren dressing up as a witch.

Nikolovski, Leydenfrost, and Thomsen

But there’s time for a bit of socializing before they depart so Claire serves up hors d’oeuvres and (quite intentionally?) a glass of that luminously blue wine made from the boiled skins of Peruvian tree frogs that was brought back from South America after one of their photo shoots. The wine is supposed to have the effect of a truth serum, and before you know it, all manner of delicious secrets are being bantered about amongst the two couples: a possible affair between royalty and a horseman; some questionable ethics in the operating room; a bit of window shopping in the red light district of Amsterdam; and perhaps the most unexpected truth of all, the desire to win the best costume contest at the Halloween party even if it means baring your soul (and a good deal more).

“Vino Veritas” is an enjoyable two hours of fun and laughter. That it’s scripted to take place before a Halloween party and has its characters dressed in costume not only adds color and anticipation to the performance, it also helps define the personalities of the four characters. There’s also some seriousness underlying the proceedings. Not quite hidden amongst all the hilarity that comes out of the mouths of the truthsayers is a lesson for all married couples on where to begin when the end seems eminent.

Thomsen and Nikolovski

The Purple Rose’s production sparkles with four superb performances, a great set, and direction by Rhiannon Ragland that provides spirited interaction between the characters and a solid use of the staging area. The set design of the stylish living area and wet bar of Phil and Lauren’s suburban home is by Sarah Pearline. Costumes are by Katherine Nelson, lighting by Dana L. White, and sound by Tom Whalen. Properties come courtesy of Danna Segrest and Thomas Macias does stage manager duties.

“Vino Veritas” runs through May 27th. Ticket reservations may be made by calling the Purple Rose box office at 1.734.433.7673 or going online at www.purplerosetheatre.org. The theatre is located at 137 Park Street in Chelsea. Take exit 159 if you’re coming west on I-94.

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