January 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Tom Long

'Vino Veritas' plays with truth and its consequences

Stoic doctor Ridley is played by Bernard White, a Michigan State University graduate. Carrie Preston plays Claire in Detroiter David MacGregor's 'Vino Veritas.' (Jo Films)

‘Vino Veritas” — in wine there’s truth.

But then there’s the matter of what wine and how much truth. And whether truth is always a good thing.

In “Vino Veritas,” written by lifelong Detroiter David MacGregor and directed by Sarah Knight, the wine in question is bright blue, hails from a South American tribe and compels complete honesty from anyone who imbibes it.

In a fit of daring, Lauren (Heather Raffo), a bored suburban housewife, and her unsure husband Phil (Brian Hutchison) drink some and serve it to the couple next door one Halloween night. Or at least they offer it — Claire (Carrie Preston) downs a glass impulsively, but her physician husband Ridley (Bernard White) declines since he’s on call.

What follows is a pressure-cooker evening in which revelations of infidelity, personal tragedy, agnostic indifference, paternal pressure, political cynicism, sexual need and everything else under the sun come out. Much of the time the exchanges are fun, sometimes things turn mean, often the revelations are poignant.

It helps that the foursome is supposedly on its way to a costume party, so Lauren is dressed as a hot witch, Phil’s a cowboy and Claire is decked out in an elaborate Elizabethan outfit. The sober doctor Ridley is dressed as a doctor, reflecting his flair.

There’s no getting around the fact that MacGregor is adapting a play for film and it still comes off very much as a play, taking place in various rooms of a house, with scenes and lines far longer than a typical film. But Knight moves fluidly, riding the non-stop dialogue easily, and the fact is, it’s a darn good play, so why mess it up?

Many will recognize Preston (“True Blood,” “The Good Wife”) and her trademark off-kilter energy works wonderfully here. But the other three actors also shine, which is a good thing because in quarters this close everything needs to work. It does.

“Vino Veritas” takes a hard but funny look at whether honesty really is the best policy. It’s highly entertaining if occasionally (and appropriately) cringe-inducing and offers some fine actors the opportunity to strut their stuff. And that’s the truth, sans vino.

'Vino Veritas'

GRADE: B

Not rated

Running time: 96 minutes

On Demand

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