Total Theater Review of RENOVATIONS FOR SIX

Renovations for Six is the fifth play by Norman Foster that Theater 40 has produced in recent years. One of Canada’s most prolific and most-produced playwrights, Foster has found an American home at Theater 40, a company that is particularly skilled at drawing-room comedy.

That skill is much in evidence with Renovations for Six, a play that takes place in one set, a living room which is shared by three different couples. The primary couple, Shayna and Grant Perkins (Rebecca Driscoll and Lane Compton, respectively), has just moved into a fixer-upper. Despite the scattered cans of paint, workmen’s tools, and the tarp-covered furniture, Shayna and Grant decide to throw a party in order to introduce themselves to the community—and make some contacts that might help them in the business world (Shayna’s a Pilates instructor, Grant’s an exec at a furniture store).

Next we’re introduced to Billie and Wing Falterman (Gail Johnston and David Hunt Stafford) in their house—same set, but we’re asked to imagine that it’s a comfortable middle-class home. We quickly learn that the bird-like Billie and the hulking Wing used to dance professionally. But now, many years later, they have settled into a more conventional existence, with Wing bringing home the bread as a salesman—a furniture salesman (yep, it turns out he works for Grant Perkins, even though he’s nearly twice that Yuppie’s age).

Couple #3 is Maurice Dudet (Martin Thompson) and Veronica Dunn-Dudet (Mona Lee Wylde). She’s an acid-tongued psychiatrist, he’s an engineer who gave up his lucrative but boring job to try and write a novel. They’ve been married for 26 years, but now the union is coming apart at the seams, exacerbated by problems with their (unseen) son, Graham.

Character study and multiple realities are at the heart of Renovations for Six. Husbands and wives reveal their secrets when they’re at home, bickering over sex (the Perkins), over thwarted, wasted lives (the Faltermans), over love gone sour (the Dudets). Then, just as the play begins to turn claustrophobic, the restraints between the three couples crumble, and they begin to wander in and out of the living room, passing each other like ships in the night, only to finally come together at the cocktail party. Pretty soon these flawed people, who are badly in need of renovation themselves, begin to confront each other over the cheese and chardonnay.

It would be wrong to give away too much here. Suffice to say that the walls of Jeff G. Rack’s set soon are splattered with as much blood as paint.

Foster’s unique brand of visceral comedy is well-executed by the skilled cast and its director, Howard Storm.