The trials and tribulations of relationships are universal across generations, with similar problems facing couples everywhere. This is especially true when it comes to money, sex, career goals, children, and above all, being happy together even though both parties want to be in control. Perhaps the saying “happy wife, happy life” sums up the way most relationships would work best, but is that even fair or realistic? Delving into such topics with outrageous comedy from start to finish is the story behind RENOVATIONS FOR SIX, the latest play by the remarkably prolific Norm Foster, the most popular and commercially successful playwright in Canada, now entertaining audiences at Theatre 40 during its U.S. premiere engagement.
This universally appealing play is bound to be a hit thanks to the sure-fire comedic direction by Howard Storm, an A-List comedian early in his career who subsequently became one of the busiest directors of television comedy, on a single “home during renovations” set by Jeff G. Rack which represents the homes of all 3 couples, often simultaneously without a bit of confusion as to who is where with whom. It’s an amazing feat of direction, performed to perfection by a talented cast, costumed by Michèle Young in modern-day, character-perfect ensembles.
The play opens in the home of Shayna and Grant Perkins (Rebecca Driscoll and Lane Compton), a young couple (new in town from Chicago) who decide to host a cocktail party so they can make new friends. Since Grant only knows the people who work for him at the local furniture store, he decides to invite the top salesman, Wing Falterman (David Hunt Stafford) and his wife Billie (Gail Johnston) who sits home, plays bridge at the senior center, but dreams of Wing retiring and hitting the road with her again performing their song-and-dance act, which they abandoned long ago to settle down and raise their daughter who we soon find out is about to divorce her husband.
Shayna decides to invite Veronica Dunn-Dudet (Mona Lee Wylde), a haughty psychiatrist who belongs to the same book club, along with her engineer husband Maurice Dudet (Martin Thompson) who has given up his high-paying job to write a novel. To call Veronica a control freak is putting it mildly. Of course, it won’t be long until we learn the real personal and very modern issue causing such bitterness down to her very soul. Then, like her husband, you will just want to reach out and hug her thanks to Wylde’s heartfelt character revelation.
Act I sets up each of the three couples, letting us inside to understand what is really going on with them behind closed doors. We soon find out all three couples are stressed, undergoing house renovations, and could use a little fix-up in the relationship department as well. A lot of the humor comes from each couple making a comment about their relationship (be it about food, sex or money), then another couple picking up on the topic and running with it, while all appear on the same set but in completely different houses. Sounds confusing, but the brilliance of this production is the clarity with which the characters and story are presented.
Act II begins with the two invited couples showing up at the same time for the party at the Perkins home, resulting in a witty, fast-paced comedy where couples, designs, and cultures clash. Of course, laughter ensues until secrets are revealed, resulting in the evening having a surprising impact on all six lives, with everything working out for the best at the end as all good comedies should.
Do yourself a real favor and gather your spouse, friends and family members and get over to Theatre 40 during the next two weekends to laugh your troubles away for a few hours in the presence of such a brilliantly entertaining production. And if you’re new to Norm Foster’s plays, you’ll certainly understand why he has acquired such a phenomenal following!