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Truth serum

Review: ‘Vino Veritas’ explores relationships without inhibitions


“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” — or maybe not.

“Vino Veritas,” now playing at the Purple Rose Theater Co. in Chelsea, begins with a soulful soliloquy by an affluent wedding and babies photographer and mid-life mom of two teenaged sons. Lauren (Kate Thomsen) scurries across the stage, cleaning up her kids’ Halloween candy and lamenting the sorry state of her stale marriage. Is this all that there is? Is this as good as it gets? Where did adventure go?

She is quickly engaged in a dialogue on this subject by her partner in matrimony and marriage photography, Phil (David Bendena), who is seemingly content with life just as it is.

A convenient plot emerges to address the boredom and ennui. Lauren will bring out the bottle of exotic, blue-colored wine acquired from a mysterious shaman in the Peruvian jungle on the couple’s recent vacation escape. They will share this on Halloween night with their church-going best friends and neighbors, Ridley and Claire, (Alex Leydenfrost and Aphrodite Nikolovski) just before heading out to a costume party. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, did I mention that the wine is purported to have a magical quality? It causes people to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Again, what could possibly go wrong? How about everything.

Ridley, a stuffy physician who is on call, decides not to imbibe more than a sip. He is immediately shocked by a torrent of curse words from his usually conservative wife, and suddenly everyone is saying everything in a torrent of initial humor that devolves into an explosion of secrets. Can these marriages be saved? Can these secrets be unspoken? Is there life after brutal honesty?

All four actors bring unique character to their roles, all good, with Bendena being a cut above the rest, with great animation and effective use of a guitar to sing through a few scenes. Thomsen has the deepest philosophical lines of the play, introducing a starkly Buddhist understanding of suffering as the existential chord that underlies all life. At one point in the play, when she reveals a personal experience of loss, the theater becomes eerily silent with empathy. Well done.

For the most part, director Rhiannon Ragland resists the temptation of going over the top, with just one late moment of seriocomic orgasm by Nikolovski that approaches slapstick.

Sarah Pearline’s set design, all glass and chrome, captures the upscale middle-class lifestyle completely, reminding us of the emotional costs that come with cocooning ourselves into comforting security.

Can substance-induced “truth” produce genuine and productive intimacy? If only.

“Vino Veritas”

Purple Rose Theatre Co.

Through May 27

$30-46; discounts available for students, seniors, teachers and military

137 Park St., Chelsea

(734) 433-7673, purplerosetheatre.org


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