An actor pounding back vodka shots can’t bring himself to play the jolly old man in red in the Santa Clause parade. An elderly man sipping white wine has lost his wife, but not in the way you’d think. A drunken, foul-mouthed and hilariously funny Scotsman named Rory loses his bottle of Keith’s, threatening mayhem till he finds it. And a charming, but oily Southern gentleman sips a cocktail, his apparently delicate sensibilities masking a raging hunger. A gay lawyer sipping whiskey opens up about his relationship with his father, who is bitterly disappointed in him – but not for the reason you’d expect. All woven together by Irish bartender Seamus, who worships at the altar of Guinness and has his own pain to manage, and bookends the piece with snippets of Baudelaire’s “Be Drunken.” Welcome to the Empty Glass, the divey bar playing host to the evening’s revelries and tales of woe that comprise In Vino Veritas. And all characters we see are created and performed by actor/playwright Teige Reid. It’s moving, darkly funny and irreverently philosophical – and just when you think the show is going in one direction, there’s a surprise. No game of “What’s in the Wellie” this time – but an equally fun turn unfolded. And all the while, the audience may order food and drink. The only rule: keep our cell phones off.
And since this is a Pubcrawl Theatre production, that’s not all. The evening opened with an acoustic set from guest artist Julian Sark, who I was able to get my ears on from just outside the room (we were in the second floor space of the pub). I working the box office and had just come up from ushering folks upstairs from the main floor pub entrance. Sark described his set as full of wordy, fast songs. For his last song, he conducted an audience poll: slow and depressing, or upbeat and fast? Formerly with the band flickershow, Julian’s been playing solo these days – and he opened for In Vino Veritas in the same space when I saw the show back in March, so it was a treat to hear him play again. Lyrical, eclectic pop with an equally varied cast of characters and, of course, a romance or two.
In Vino Veritas is playing once a month on the second floor of the Fox & Fiddle Wellesley (27 Wellesley St. East, Toronto), with more dates scheduled till May. The next show is Friday, February 15 – doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a 7:00 p.m. show – tickets $20. For reservations, give Teige a shout at: firstname.lastname@example.org