Monday, March 1, 2010



Mr. & Mrs. Fitch
Written by Douglas Carter Beane

Directed by Scott Ellis

Starring John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle

January 26-April 4, 2010

Second Stage Theater, 307 West 43rd Street

Douglas Carter Beane’s eponymous Mr. and Mrs. Fitch features married gossip columnists who, when pushed to the brink of extinction by websites and bloggers, try a last-ditch attempt to make themselves relevant in an era of instant irrelevancy: invent a new celebrity whom they can control themselves—or so they think.

Beane always puts a primacy on bitchy, sometimes witty epigrams and one-liners, which the new play abounds in, sometimes to its credit (“Bi now, gay later”), more often to its detriment (“Suicide? In L.A.? How can you tell?”). As these columnists trade quips, Beane often peppers their dialogue with the names of celebrities living and dead, from Samuel Clemens, Ayn Rand, Shakespeare and even Proust to Maya Angelou, Anna Deavere Smith, Moises Kaufman and along with pop-cultural references like the kindle. It’s all-purpose name-dropping so that everyone—from the culturally literate to those who aren’t—can pick up on at least some of the references.Beane also overuses cutesy nicknames—Himself-the-Elf, Generalissimo de la Horror Show, No Sex X, Tall and Frosted—something that seems to have multiplied since his last play, The Little Dog Laughed, in which Julie White’s harried agent would continually talk about the never-seen screenwriter, “He Meaning Him.” It’s too bad, because if Beane held back a bit on some of these, the better ones—like a certain New York City newspaper referred to as a “proudly Australian owned morning tabloid”—would stand a fighting chance of scoring good laughs.

Scott Ellis smartly directs John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle to gleefully dig into Beane’s actor-friendly dialogue. But even they, expert comic performers both, can’t gloss over such lazy writing as pronouncing blog as “BLAH-guh,” accenting the first syllable as if they are about to throw up: not once, not twice, but several times, diluting the joke with each retch.

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