Friday, March 26, 2010

Mr. & Mrs. Fitch

I was so sleepy as I settled in for this world premiere of Douglas Carter Beane's Mr. & Mrs. Fitch that I wondered how I’d make it through the next two hours. Not to worry. I perked up the moment John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle entered, laughing as their stumble into their colorful Manhattan loft in the wee hours of the morning after a night on the town. And I stayed engaged as their glitzy world unfold in this cocktail of a show, directed by Scott Ellis at Second Stage Theatre.

Tony winners Lithgow and Ehle play the title characters, a gossip columnist and his wife chronicling New York’s theatre luminaries and other members of the glitteratti. This particular night, however, their shiny world is threatened when their column comes up short. On deadline, having exhausted their notes for tantalizing details, they resort to quoting a press release, written in anticipation of the party they’ve just covered, that a famous actress was there, living it up and looking great. They hadn’t seen her, but it was crowded and so they go with what they’ve been fed by the publicist.

But just after Mr. Fitch presses the send button to file his column, he notices an online announcement that the actress had died earlier that day. Needless to say, Mr. Fitch’s editor is irate, and tells him to fill out the piece with another item ASAP.

What to do? Mrs. Fitch has an idea. Create a mysterious character new to the Manhattan party world, and make it sound as if he’s fast on his way to becoming the latest It guest on the social scene. Anything goes as they make up this divine young man, pictured in lush detail and christened Jamie Glenn.

When this imaginary character becomes so intriguing to their readers that he assumes a life of his own, however, their little deception threatens to bring them down.

If this play were a 1930s or 40s movie, which it resembles, it would be labeled “a sophisticated comedy.” It’s a refreshing change from most contemporary works that take their cue from TV sitcoms, with that inane one-liner humor made for laugh tracks or studio audiences primed to chuckle at the pause after each insipid joke.

Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, the play, nicely reflects the world of Cole Porter, whose song of the same name is about a poor couple who strike oil, become the toast of society, only to be shunned quickly when they lose their fortune in the stock market crash (the first one, that is, in 1929). I had a Bobby Short recording of this delicious little song, and was delighted when Lithgow sat down at the couple’s grand piano to play and sing it, with Ehle lounging atop, joining in occasionally.

It’s a perfect touch for a couple who seem always ready to hop into a gown and tux at a moment’s notice, as they do when they receive, in response to their Jamie Glenn item, a last minute invitation to “the semiannual ass-kisser’s ball.”

Jeff Mahshie’s costumes are splendid. As are Allen Moyer’s set, Kenneth Posner’s lighting and Lewis Finn’s original music, all of which contribute to the twinkling world of Mr. & Mrs. Fitch. It’s delovely!

Mr. & Mrs. Fitch continues at Second Stage Theatre, 305 W. 43rd St, through April 4. Call (212) 246-4422 for tickets or visit for more details.

No comments: