by Lynn on August 21, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, 250 St. Paul St. St. Catharines, Ont.

Written by Norm Foster

Directed by Patricia Vanstone

Set and Costumes by Peter Hartwell

Lighting by Chris Malkowski

Cast: Wes Berger

Cosette Derome

Peter Keleghan

Leah Pinsent

Nora McLellan

William Vickers

A funny, smart play about relationships and how they are tested during renovations.

The Story. This is another original play by Norm Foster for this festival dedicated to his plays. The festival is billed as “Humour with Heart.” That it is.

Renovations for Six is about three couples in varying social strata, all are being tested with renovations to their dwellings. Grant and Shayna Perkins have moved to this new city so Grant can take up a new job as manager of a furniture store. Shayna wants to open her own yoga studio (as she did in her previous city) but seems to have to put that on hold while Grant gets his footing.

Maurice Dudet and his wife Veronica Dunn-Dudet are well off—he used to be an engineer until he decided to leave that to write a novel. Veronica is a psychiatrist who doesn’t miss a chance to give Maurice a shot about how their income has come down.

Billie and Wing Falterman are ex-dancers on a kind of vaudeville circuit. Billie would love to go back to it but her husband Wing is not sure. He works at the same store as Grant. Wing is a senior salesman, Grant is his boss, and secretly Wing feels he should have been given the promotion to manager.

It seems that the women belong to the same book club and so to meet new people Grant and Shayna throw a party and invite the other two couples.

Truths are told. Feelings are hurt and a secret is revealed.

The Production. Peter Hartwell has designed a smart set that stands for the three separate spaces under renovations. There are few prop changes. The audience does all the imagining of where we are. Patricia Vanstone has directed with assurance, wit and economy. We always know where we are and with whom. And while Norm Foster’s play is full of his notable humour and wit, this is not a facile play. There are serious issues: fidelity, trying to follow your bliss no matter how silly it might seem to others; rekindling a love that seems to be stale; and just retribution.

The cast is crackerjack. Wes Berger plays Grant Perkins, the man who has just been promoted and moves to the new city for the job, bringing his accommodating wife Shayna (Cosette Derome) with him. Berger is strapping, attractive and has that look of success that some bosses like. Berger has that easy-going, but mindful attitude about his job. He looks like he’s fair minded but he is full of surprises. Cosette Derome as Shayna is his loving wife. They have a lot of quick sex which might suggest that all is ok. Hmmmmm.

Peter Keleghan plays Maurice Dudet, once an engineer who now is trying his hand at writing. It’s slow. He keeps plodding away. His wife Veronica (Leah Pinsent)  is not quite so accommodating. She is a psychiatrist who likes the two incomes they used to enjoy. While he is relaxed and not so full of worries, he is of course aware of his wife’s cutting remarks. He rolls with the punches. Leah Pinsent as Veronica as cutting, bored, impatient and arch with her comments. We know there is trouble here.

Nora McLellan plays Billie Falterman and William Vickers plays Wing Falterman. They play an ex-song and dance duo. Wing also works in Grant’s furniture store and secretly feels he should have gotten the promotion. He shows that he has more smarts and compassion for his fellow workers than Grant does. Nora McLellan as Billie makes almost everything seem hilarious because she is so eager to get back into the business and has that sass that works so well. Both McLellan and Vickers have comic timing that is astonishing. Vickers plays the more excitable of the two. McLellan can pop off a line with a straight face and do some small business with her fingers that just finishes the joke. Pure joy.

Renovations for Six is the third in the series of shows that comprised this year’s Foster Festival. I regret missing the first show this year. With plays and productions this good I’ll be making a trip to this festival next year for sure.

Comment. It’s quite wonderful to see the whole community getting behind this endeavor. And why not. It’s terrific theatre; the casts and creative folks involved are top notch and the festival is dedicated to one of our most successful playwrights. We all win.

Produced by the Foster Festival

Began: Aug. 8, 2018.

Closes: Aug. 25, 2018.

Running Time:  2 hours approx.

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