April 18 2012 12:00 AM

'Vino Veritas' is diluted by unconvincing acting

In addition to its power to impair our vision, speech and judgment, imbibing too much alcohol can also coerce people into saying what they really mean. Hence the premise of “Vino Veritas” — roughly translated “in wine, truth” — a play by David McGregor about unbridled honesty.

Although the script suffers from unbridled preachiness toward the end, the primary problem in this Lansing Civic Players production stems from an overall lack of honest performances.

Set on Halloween night, “Vino Veritas” finds two married couples meeting up to prepare for the dreaded annual costume party. But the Peruvian pre-party aperitif (made from the skin of the blue dart tree frog) is no ordinary drink. After one glass each and a series of intrusive questions, the couples' conversation quickly devolves into a night of humorously dark revelations that test the boundaries of every relationship in the room.

Amanda Devlin-Knowlton plays Lauren, a socially repressed wife and mother who fondly recalls former adventures in professional photography with her husband, Phil (Christian Powell).

Lauren's lines like “after 10 years and two kids,” provide borderline-excessive exposition as well as the explanation for Lauren's current anti-provincial cynicism. Phil, on the other hand, is content with trivial knowledge and a love of junk food and guilty-pleasure films.

Their neighbors and close friends, Ridley (John Roache) and Claire (Abbie Tykocki), attend the same church and share in baby-sitting duties.

Lansing Civic Players and director Tony Sump should be commended for attempting a script with a number of interesting layers and changing character dynamics. The material is not beyond the reach of any of the actors, and the middle portion flows quite smoothly.

Unfortunately, beyond the exquisitely detailed set designed by Sump, Molly Epstein and Delvin-Knowlton, this production suffers from a lack of sincerity.

‘Vino Veritas’

Lansing Civic Players

Curry Lane Theatre

6025 Curry Lane, Lansing

8 p.m. Thursday, April 19 and Friday, April 20; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21

Thursday prices: $10 adults, $8 students, seniors and military Friday, Saturday, Sunday prices: $14 adults, $12 students, seniors and military

(888) 419-5458