As I told Missus Peg when we were leaving Marriage: A Demolition in Two Acts at Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE), “Well that is a fantastic deterrent for us from ever redoing our kitchen!” (A project that is currently on her dreaded official “to do list”).
It was the world premier of Rick Chafe’s newest work, a hilarious play where you witness both the demolition of the set (a reciprocating saw makes an appearance as saw dust and sparks literally fly) and the gutting of two relationships who clearly have cracks in their foundation.
Laughter jack-hammers throughout the theatre as actors Tom Anniko (Wayne), Marina Stephenson Kerr (Julie), Erin McGarth (Maggie) and Justin Otto (John) took to Chafe’s material with gusto.
Marina Stephenson Kerr, Tom Anniko, Justin Otto and Erin McGrath (Bruce Monk)
The premise is rather simple: combative semi-retired couple Wayne and Julie (Julie still works in insurance) have designs on renovating their dated kitchen — with the main issue being the budget. They decide to hire millennial couple John and Maggie, a carpenter-designer team who, as it quickly becomes apparent, also have some loose screws.
Budgets are quickly blown and tempers often flare as Julie and Maggie continue to push for a dream kitchen — buying up items like maple cupboards and steam and convection items — while John and the oft-hapless Wayne struggle to get the work done in any sort of efficient fashion.
I feel as though it was like what you’d see when the cameras stop rolling on HGTV shows like Leave it to Bryan and Fixer Upper (which Missus Peg is always filling up our PVR with), as both couples keep punching holes in the drywall of their relationships. It all makes for great fun, and after each zesty one-liner gets hammered home you quickly realized how universal home renovation comedy is for all couples (throughout the audience you frequently heard people under their breath say things like, “Oh, I’ve been there” and “Oh my god, that’s us”).
Marina Stephenson Kerr, Justin Otto and Tom Anniko (Bruce Monk)
In this, you really have to admire Chafe’s play, as despite the often cartoonish blowups between characters you can really start to see the worst of yourself and your relationship reflected in the characters as they push their boundaries and budgets while trying to have their house define themselves (which is an allusion to one of the best lines in the play about what a kitchen island could do for Wayne and Julie).
For couples, beyond it being a great comedy, you’ll also appreciate it as an affordable form of marriage counselling. (Not to say Missus Peg and I need that… besides, our home renos don’t go past painting walls; being wooden clothes pegs the thought of carpentry and wood working is right up there with cannibalism.)
If I do recall, PTE’s always affable artistic director Robert Metcalfe was saying this is the 148th world premier that has been staged at PTE, which is an incredible feat for this great little theatre that you can find at the top of Portage Place Mall. It’s always a great venue to catch a show as the setting is so intimate, while the clientele is representative of Winnipeg’s seemingly tight theatre community (if you are a regular you always spot actors you’ve just caught in recent productions at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Projects Manitoba and Winnipeg Jewish Theatre).
Marriage: A Demolition in Two Acts runs from March 16-April 3rd. There are scenes with strong language so you best not bring the kids. Lede photo of Tom Anniko and Marina Stephenson is also by Bruce Monk.