For its spring play the Purple Rose revives an old favorite, first produced there ten years ago, David MacGregor’s “Vino Veritas”, a dark comedy about two couples who, on Halloween night, drink a bottle of what is purported to be truth serum, a South American wine made from the skin of blue dart tree frogs. Current talked with MacGregor, and director, Rhiannon Ragland about the play.
Did you see Vino Veritas at the Purple Rose 10 years ago?
Ragland: I did. I was the understudy for both female roles. It was one of my very first jobs here at the Purple Rose.
When you’re directing it now, are you carrying memories of that first production?
Ragland: I do carry memories of the play, but because it’s an entirely different cast, with a very different set, so the story does get to be new again, and we do get to discover things.
I’ve seen two of your plays, David, “Gravity” and “Consider the Oyster,” and the seeds of both spring from science. “Vino Veritas” also seems to do that. What is it about scientific facts that spark ideas for you?
MacGregor: It can be a historical fact or a scientific one, but it has to relate to a human story. For “Gravity,” it was watching a documentary about Newton at two in the morning, half asleep, and hearing a quote from a letter in which Newton is writing to the philosopher John Locke, “You’ve endeavored to embroil me with women and I wish you were dead!” (Laughter) And I thought, “What the hell is that? That’s not the Newton I learned about in school!”
So yes, it starts off with a kernel, an inciting incident if you will, that is then going to throw these characters into a world, into a journey out of the realm of their experience, or everyday life.
What do you want people to know about this play?
Ragland: The voyeurism of the play is what intrigues me. At one of the first meetings with the designers someone said, “Have you ever been at a party, and seen the couple over in the corner having the fight, and while it doesn’t have anything to do with you, you can’t stop watching, you want to know what’s going on.” Well, now you get to. You get to peek into this world and eavesdrop. And at the same time you’re not able to get away from it.
MacGregor: I think part of the reason people responded to this play is they recognized themselves in the characters. It’s stuff that you think—but you think it’s just you—and you think, “There’s something wrong with me, and if I really let people know about this, people in white jackets would show up.” And then to see it played out on stage, and you see, it’s not just you.
Ragland: The actors, we’re not out there separately trying to tell you a story. We’re there to get the story to you and to breathe with you, and to breathe for you when you can’t.
Vino Veritas opened March 23 and will run through May 27, 2017
Purple Rose Theatre, 37 Park St, Chelsea
Tickets range from $20.50 to $41