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Truth-telling dark comedy opening Thursday

Bill DeYoung

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"Vino Veritas," from left: Andrew Hughes, Trish Parry, Tracey Reynolds and Larry Bukovey. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

There’s a much-repeated Latin phrase, in vino veritas. In wine, truth.

Anyone who’s sampled the grape for any duration can attest to the veracity of that statement – alcohol, of course, loosens the tongue.

Therein lies the premise of the new production at Studio Grand Central. Opening Thursday, David MacGregor’s dark comedy Vino Veritas involves two married couples, getting ready to leave for a Halloween party.

First, they share half a bottle of a strange blue wine recently imported from Peru. Turns out, the beverage has magical properties: It renders the drinker unable to lie.

Oh, those ancient Incas.

MacGregor’s tale is much more nuanced, and far less silly, than the old Jim Carrey movie Liar Liar. Lots of secrets are revealed as the four go around the room and confront one another (it’s also several degrees to the left of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)

Stephen Ray, who’s directing this Off-Central Players production, understood the push-and-pull from the first time he read the script. “There was something about the interplay of the couples that really grabbed me,” he remembers.

“The fact that one couple, their entire relationship is kind of built on the foundations of a lie. And once the truth starts coming out, their entire relationship starts crumbling.

“Whereas the other couple is just destined to face the truth. They’ve been trying to live the lie, but as we see in the very beginning, it’s on frayed nerves at this point, and it’s about to snap.”

Recently returned from a “marriage-saving” vacation in South America (that’s where they bought the rainforest wine, distilled from Blue Dart Tree Frog skins), Phil and Lauren are trying, and subtly failing, to hold things together.

Ridley and Claire, their buttoned-up friends and neighbors, appear to be a nearly-perfect couple.

While Vino Veritas is bold-faced and unyielding in its depictions of the perils hat come with absolute honesty, the seriousness is seriously offset by humorous dialogue. Hence, the phrase “dark comedy” (in Latin, tenebris comoediae).

In preparation, Ray watched the 2013 film version of Vino Veritas. “When I watch other iterations of shows I’m doing, I’m looking for what not to do, and what didn’t work, versus what did work,” he says. “With the movie they really played towards the drama of everything. The movie has a heavyset tone, throughout the whole thing. And I thought that was the wrong way to go about it.

“Because there’s so much funny stuff that happens in the show. And if you’re not able to laugh, even at some of the darkest moments, then those really important things that question the foundations of these relationships, they get lost amongst all the other scattered debris.” In other words, the high highs and the low lows complement one another.

Depending on one’s definition of “date night,” this Studio Grand Central production might be just the elixir.

“We’re not trying to hold a mirror, necessarily, up to our audience,” Ray laughs. “It’s more of a reflection of what relationships can be.”

Vino Veritas opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 9. Tickets and info are here.

 

 

 

 

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