Respect the Work
Folks, it's not that difficult. RESPECT THE WORK.
You owe it to the author. More importantly, you owe it to the audience, who purchased tickets to your show with certain expectations in mind.
The director's "artistic statement" is the height of arrogant solipsism. If you wish to alter a work to better suit your space or resources, consult the author. If you wish to alter a work because it doesn't say what you wish it did, well... write your own play, I guess.
This "do it and hope they don't notice" approach is amateur hour, and their responses to the author's concerns were disrespectful and classless.