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No F*#@ing Merlot ... But Great Theater

From left, John Colella and Jonathan Bray in “Sideways: The Play” at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Los Angeles.

“Sideways,” the multiple award-winning film based on the book by Rex Pickett, has been adapted for the stage and debuted at Ruskin Group Theatre Co. in Santa Monica, Calif., on May 18.

Performances run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through July 22, and all have sold out. No doubt the inclusion of top-notch California and Oregon winemakers pouring Pinot Noirs for the price of admission has made this beloved work on wine even better received. “I’m not sure there is a precedent for this,” said Michael Myers, production manager for Ruskin. “The wines set the mood, and the play takes you higher.”

Pickett, a Santa Monica-based writer, adapted his novel for the stage in six weeks.

“My original book is so dialogue-driven that I felt it could make the transformation to the stage,” said Pickett, whose latest book, “Vertical,” the sequel to “Sideways,” was recently awarded the 2012 Independent Publishers Award for fiction. “But even I was surprised at how well this talented group at the Ruskin could interpret it. People are telling me they like it more than the movie.”

The play is more faithful to the original book than the Oscar-nominated film by Alexander Payne. “Scenes that were cut from the book for film are reinstated,” Pickett said. “That means even the biggest die-hard ‘Sideways’ fan will have something new to see.”

Opening weekend audiences saw the roles of Miles and Jack, Maya and Terra, passionately portrayed and brought to life in director Amelia Mulkey’s ingenious staging of the novel. 

Early reviews of “Sideways: The Play” have found it most adaptable to the theater, especially with the creative sets used by Ruskin Group.

Pickett, who is now the wine columnist for Town & Country Magazine, says “It is the only play in the world where it makes sense to pour wines before, during and afterward.”

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