Making its west coast premier at Beverly Hills’ Theatre 40 is David MacGregor’s VINO VERITAS, a comedy about two couples sharing a strange brew with one another, receiving an unexpected result from its consumption.
It’s All Hallow’s Eve-Halloween Night. And living in a suburban bedroom community is Lauren and Phil. (Christine Joelle and Shawn Savage) They are a married couple with a pair of young boys. Their neighbors and good friends Ridley and Claire (Daniel Kaemon and Kristen Kollender) come over ready to leave as a group to attend another neighbor’s Halloween party. Lauren and Phil run a local photography business, but were once photographers taking pictures in exotic locations. Ridley and Claire, also parents of young kids, have their own line of work as Ridley’s a doctor while Claire holds an occupation once known as a “housewife”. While decked out in their best Halloween duds where the party they are about to attend offers a costume contest, Lauren decides to offer a special wine they picked up while on a long past assignment in Peru. This wine, blue in color as made from the skin of a blue dart tree frog, was known by the natives to carry some kind of “truth serum” where whoever drinks the wine will speak the truth. So upon consuming this wine, an unintentional game of truth or dare begins among the pair, leading into many unwitting climaxes.
This play starts off as a comedy as the four characters go through many detailed and amusing domestic bits and pieces that would normally be found in many post-modern TV sitcoms. Upon completing of its first act that bleeds into the second act, the mood shifts from comedy into drama. The truths that the characters speak about when they consume their blue colored concoction become rather serious in nature, touching upon topics that are not humorous by essence. This method in writing sobering subject matter from a comical backdrop is very reminiscent to a 1980’s-era sitcom that featured a “very special episode” that began in a normal fashion. Once the serious subject matter is brought up by the cast by the end of the first act, its second act deals with the extended topic sans laughs, ending upon a lower emotional stance. That what this play presents as its mood. However, when it becomes funny, it’s funny! The cast of four that portray a bunch of friends from suburbia are very likable for what they are in that sitcom method of humor. Michael Karm is on hand to direct this production that moves when it’s comical, and becomes rather limited when its temper takes its next step.
What also makes this play a treat to see visual-wise is its set by Theatre 40’s residential set designer Jeff G. Rack, presenting a living room that is big in size and inviting by nature with plenty of Halloween decor scattered throughout. Its costuming is helmed by two parties. Michele Young provides the standard ware, while Angela Nicholas provides the design to a pair of Halloween duds worn by Christine Joelle and Kristen Kollender. Kristen as Claire dresses up as Queen Elizabeth I, and Christine as Lauren is decked out as a “hokus pokus” witch.
The title of this play VINO VERITAS comes from a Latin proverb that means “in wine, the truth”. Although this writer isn’t much of a wine fanatic (no offense, folks!), perhaps this same writer will note the truth, stating that if the second act offered as many laughs as experienced in the first act, this show would be presented as an upbeat and comical play with a “screwball” persona. But with “very special episodes”, sometimes one can’t properly laugh toward what is spoken about! However, it’s still entertaining for what it is! And one doesn’t have to drink the wine to discover that fact!