By Mike Keenan
What a glorious way to end the season. I do not know how Norm Foster does it! Renovations For Six is yet another world premiere, and the writing ranks right up there with his very best material, so funny that he had the audience laughing and chuckling with merriment throughout the two acts.
In her program notes, director Patricia Vanstone says that, “Norm Foster amazes me in the breadth of his writing. Working back to back on his two latest plays has been a revelation to me. Going from the heart-felt storytelling of Come Down From Up River to the high-octane pace of Renovations For Six has been exhilarating – both plays are laugh-out-loud funny but so different in style and content.”
She is blessed with another strong cast. Shayna (Cosette Derome) and Grant Perkins (Wes Berger) are newly arrived in town and anxious to make friends and network for Shayna’s Pilates business so the young couple decide to host a cocktail party. Derome suggests that they each pick one couple. Berger picks Wing Falterman (William Vickers) a furniture salesman where he is the newly arrived manager and Billie (Nora McLellan), Wing’s wife. They abandoned a song-and-dance act and show biz to raise their daughter. Derome picks a fellow book-club member, snooty psychiatrist Veronica Dunn-Dudet (Leah Pinsent) and her husband Maurice Dudet (Peter KeLeghan), an engineer who has left his high-paying job to write a novel. The only thing that they have in common is that all three couples are undergoing house renovations. We soon learn that their relationships could also use a little fix-up.
One set represents the living area of all three homes. When a scene between one couple is concluding, the scene between the next couple begins in the same space, sometimes with four or six actors on stage at once. The living space is an open concept home that is in the midst of renovations. This requires split-second timing and the skilled cast is up to the task. It was fascinating to watch them make this scenario work.
Berger is making his Foster Festival debut. Derome was terrific in Screwball Comedy. Pinsent is a three-time Gemini award winner, featured on TV and film. McLellan and Vickers are Shaw Festival vets. Keleghan is a five-time Gemini award winner best known as anchorman Jim Wallcott in The Newsroom. He plays opposite his real-life wife, Pinsent. Both Peter Hartwell (Set & Costumes) and Chris Malkowski (lighting) have been with the Shaw Festival.
I thoroughly enjoyed Derome’s zest and youthful effervescence. Berger was wonderful as a shady manager whose “all-righty then” responses land him in trouble. Pinsent excelled at being snarky with everyone including her husband and Keleghan’s self-deprecation and resonant voice was wonderful to behold. But Vickers and McLellan stole the show, their wicked witticisms producing thunderous laughter particularly when they brood about why they were invited, convincing her husband that he is going to be fired. Foster is a master of comedy of manners, and his dialogue centering on sex and bathroom location was sidesplitting funny.
Vanstone describes Foster’s piece as “a roller coaster ride through the cocktail party from hell!” Renovations For Six is well worth watching and there are a limited number of performances left (ends Aug. 25) to see at the beautiful PAC with its inviting lounge where one may sip wine before the play and at intermission.
Check out the production at: https://www.fosterfestival.com/site/home
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