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Purple Rose Theatre’s ‘Vino Veritas’: Truth is a Daring Adventure

By Crystal Hayduk

Celebrating its 100th play, the Purple Rose Theatre Company (PRTC) has revived the popular “Vino Veritas,” which premiered on its stage in 2008.

Written by Detroit native David MacGregor, “Vino Veritas” gets its Latin title from the ancient proverb meaning “in wine, there is truth.” But in this comedy, there is more at stake than the typical loss of inhibition that comes from partaking of alcohol.

The story opens on Halloween night in Phil and Lauren’s modern home, replete with exotic artifacts and interesting photographs, but also tastefully decorated for the holiday. The couple is preparing to attend a costume party with their neighbors and best friends, Ridley and Claire. Frustrated with her humdrum life, Lauren decides to serve a ceremonial “truth serum” wine, brewed from the skin of blue dart tree frogs, which she brought back from a recent trip to Peru. 

Her husband, upset to discover that she still had the wine after telling him she had thrown it out, believes the results could be disastrous and warns her against the idea.

A grown-up version of Truth or Dare ensues. The “dare” involves draining their glasses of the magical concoction that forces exposure of the bare truth. Three take the dare, while the fourth only tastes the wine.

What happens when thoughts and beliefs are honestly communicated without filters? The results are at once hilarious and shocking, as the characters reveal things that surprise themselves as well as their friends.

David Bendena, with impeccable comic timing, is outstanding as Phil, the easygoing, nice guy and the most likeable of the group.

Kate Thomsen is his wife, Lauren, who instigates the evening’s entertainment as a result of her realistically portrayed life crisis.

Aphrodite Nikolovski brings a range of intense dramatics to the role of Claire. The audience first meets her pretending to be Queen Elizabeth I, but quickly learns about many hidden aspects of her life when she is the first to drink the wine.

Alex Leydenfrost effectively plays straight-laced Ridley, a physician whose secrets are revealed despite his attempts to keep them hidden.

Audience members find themselves empathizing more with the character they feel most similar to; but by the end of the show, the total honesty leads to a deeper understanding of the other characters’ points of view.

MacGregor’s script tackles the mundane to the serious. The conversation flows from movies to “the day that changed everything” in a medley of topics that will touch individuals uniquely depending on their own hidden thoughts.

“Vino Veritas” may inspire you to consider that life’s greatest adventure could be telling the truth even when it hurts.

Note: this production contains adult language and subject matter. 

Playwright David MacGregor was born in Detroit and graduated from Michigan State University. He is a professor of writing and film at Wayne State University, whose plays have been performed worldwide. MacGregor also wrote the screenplay for the film version of “Vino Veritas” (2013).

His other plays that have been performed at PRTC include “The Late Great Henry Boyle” (2006), “Gravity” (2010), and “Consider the Oyster” (2011).

“Vino Veritas”
What: Revival of world premiere of 2008
When: Now playing through May 27; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings; matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sundays (except on Easter). 
Where: The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park St.
Playwright: David MacGregor
Director: Rhiannon Ragland
Cast: David Bendena, Alex Leydenfrost, Aphrodite Nikolovski, Kate Thomsen
Crew: Design includes set by Sarah Pearline, properties by Danna Segrest, costumes by Katherine Nelson, lighting by Dana L. White, and sound by Tom Whalen. Stage manager –Thomas Macias; artistic director – Guy Sanville; managing director – Katie Hubbard.
Tickets: Available at or by calling the box office at 734-433-7673.

About the Purple Rose Theatre Company:
Founded in 1991 by actor, playwright, musician and Chelsea native Jeff Daniels, the Purple Rose Theatre Company is a creative home for original American plays. In the 168-seat theatre, patrons experience an intimate encounter with live theatre.

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