reviewed by Adam Crowe

Even now, in October, theaters all over America are already preparing for the upcoming onslaught of “holiday” (i.e. Christmas) productions. This week, I experienced something out of the ordinary – a play that celebrates a much closer holiday – Halloween!! David MacGregor’s Vino Veritas, arriving onstage at the Phoenix Theater, is not “about” Halloween, but begins its tale by introducing two seemingly ordinary couples, preparing for an annual Halloween Party. As the title suggests, Wine plays a crucial role in MacGregor’s tale.

from left: Claire (Sarah Hund) , Lauren (Carrie Schlatter), and Phil (Wolf Sherrill) in a scene from Phoenix Theatre’s “Vino Veritas”.

As Lauren and Phil prepare to host neighbors Ridley and Claire, we are introduced to some pretty standard couples’ angst. Lauren makes it clear that Phil is no longer the man that she married and her resentment and unhappiness are clear. The Vino of the title turns out to be a “magical” concoction of some natives of Peru, designed to bring out the truth in those who drink it. Lauren obtained the potion while on vacation and is intent on sharing the “magic” with neighbors Ridley and Claire. To reveal more would spoil the fun, but as you might guess, the wine is drunk and many secrets are revealed. Lots of secrets . . . and lots of revealing. I mean, LOTS. In fact, my only real quibble with the entire production is the playwright’s decision to include so many revelations, with some sharp shifts from comedy to more heady outpourings.

In spite of its contrivances, the play succeeds – and does so on the shoulders of its excellent cast. Phoenix veterans Carrie Schlatter (Lauren) and Michael Hosp (Ridley) are joined by newcomer Wolf Sherrill (Phil), and all have moments where they shine brightly. But In her sophomore outing at the Phoenix, Sarah Hund is an absolute delight. Her turn as the under-appreciated Claire is worth the entire ticket price. In Hund’s hands, Claire is the most interesting of the four and the audience is constantly anticipating what she will do or say next.

Michael Hosp portrays Ridley in Phoenix Theatre’s “Vino Veritas”.

Director Bill Simmons handles his actors and the story with aplomb. It doesn’t hurt that the technical aspects of the production are also top drawer. Zach Hunter gives Lauren and Phil a beautiful home, perfectly lit by Michael Moffat. Danielle Buckel’s designs for costumes and properties are excellent and Tom Horan’s sound design is quite effective. Credit also goes to The Phoenix for employing the skills of an “Intimacy Choreographer”. Jenny McKnight’s contributions may not be obvious to the audience, but no doubt made some of the action onstage much more comfortable for the actors.

The preview audience was more than enthusiastic at the curtain call. I suspect that they did not share my small complaints about the script. And I guess I don’t blame them. In its production of Vino Veritas, the Phoenix manages to make the audience think, feel and mostly laugh. It’s a nice antidote to a holiday predominantly focused on gore and gruesome imagery. You don’t have to skip your annual viewing of Night of the Living Dead . . . just add some unusual Vino to the mix.

Vino Veritas runs weekends through November 24th. The Phoenix Cultural Centre is located at 705 North Illinois Street, in downtown Indianapolis. Ticket information can be found at or by calling (317) 635-7529.

  • photos provided by Phoenix Theatre