All in all this was a little disappointing as a theatrical experience. The premise was interesting, the cast was very promising but somehow it fizzled but did not burst into flame. There were certainly some amusing lines in the dialogue but they were somewhat submerged by the breakneck pace in which the lines were spoken. Some of the bon mots were lost in the follow-up lines. It seemed to me that the timing was a bit off which, with such experienced actors who certainly resonated together, must be a fault of the direction rather than of them. Some of the lines needed to hang in the air for a split second to allow the audience to relish them rather than for the play to gallop on over them hell bent on reaching the next one. It was equally surprising then that the end seemed tame in the extreme and we were left with a bit of a deflated feeling. This was not that we did not get some enjoyment out of the evening but that our expectations of such a talented playwright, such excellent actors who put lots of effort into everything, and a great set were just unfulfilled.
Mr. & Mrs. Fitch at the Second Stage Theatre is a rollicking good time and should be treated as such. John Lithgow and Jenifer Ehle, in the title roles are directed by Scott Ellis to absolute symphonic perfection. They are utterly delicious to watch on an astounding set by Allen Moyer. This new play by Douglas Carter Beane Little Doug Laughed is going to be an audience favorite despite its deep flaws. The dialogue is witty and faced paced and at times quite clever. No critique, mine or others changes that fact. But oh, the flaws. Mr. & Mrs. Fitch live in a 2,000 square foot duplex loft in a desirable section of Manhattan. Presumably they do so on Mr. Fitchs salary as a gossip columnist. The play takes place today; twitter, blogging and prominent MacBooks confirm this fact. Yet, the costumes are out of a Noel Coward play. They are gorgeous, but as incongruent as the scathing epitaphs Mr. Fitch hurls at Mrs. Fitch, seemingly out of the blue. This appears to be an homage to Albees Virginia Woolf, but they are just disturbing coming from the mouth of an otherwise pleasing fellow. This fellow, we are told, prefers men, yet Mrs. Fitch makes scathing witticisms about bisexuals bi now, gay later and not to offend her husband. Mr. Fitchs boss, presumably a newspaper editor, calls him in the middle of the night and leaves the most outrageous message on his answering machine. It is difficult to believe that someone in the news business would be so obtuse as to leave a permanent record of berating homosexual slurs slung at an employee. Mr. Fitch has a novel within him and disdain for his day job. Mr. & Mrs. Fitch go to parties with people they hate and scurry back home to type out a column in five minutes. The plot, as it were, then centers around the fact that they create a celebrity, a la A Face in the Crowd. Why they do this and what they hope to gain from it, is not entirely clear, but it makes for interesting comments. We discover that Mrs. Fitch, the more fast paced witty raconteur, is from New Jersey and attended public school. Apparently, this is code for "wrong side of the tracks." There are moments when this word smith is turned into Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday. She attributes fine chocolates, watches and neutrality to the Swedes, and makes obvious errors about Edgar Lee Masters. Whats even more appalling, is the scene written for laughs in which she uses the Joy of Cooking to figure out how to crack an egg, and must find the printed instructions for the stove? Who IS this woman? She was raised in New Jersey, clearly not with a silver spoon, does not work, has no household help we know this because there is clutter in the house but can not crack an egg? Werent we subjected to this display in Adams Rib? The incongruity spills into the dialogue too as Mr. Beane seems uncomfortable trusting the audience. He is most comfortable with witty reparte or turns of phrase, and most uncomfortable putting voice to intellectualism. There are clumsy redundant explanatory lines such as "He was with his excruciatingly young Nabokovian lover" that are cringe inducing. There is a rather desperate Sarah Palin joke as well why not stamp an expiration date on the play? Both acts are interrupted by travel monologues, first she, then he. They move nothing in the story, and bring the real strength of the play their tennis match of words to a screeching halt. The set, though ravishing and a decorators dream of balance and color, left a few questions in my mind. Would the Fitchs who have nothing but disdain for the common, really have Wally Lamb books? Would there be a copy of the Yiddish Policemens Union on the table? I found the fact that I had the same books and ideas as the Fitchs mildly disconcerting. Mr. Beane should have tried harder to align the characters he was creating with what he knew to be true.
After a night of mulling, gnashing and re-thinking, I find I was a little quick to dismiss this play as sheer showing off. Yes, Ill stick with my point that Beane is too clever by half in his rat-a-tat dialogue, but the end product now seems clearer than it did when I first got home from the theater. Now that I think about it, I probably missed the point. This is a play about truth and illusion, the "child" in WHOS AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is cited, and looking back over FITCH it seems that many characters, except Mr. Fitch may be illusions that he has, for one reason or another, created. For instance, in the play, Fitch creates a fascinating personality who doesnt exist for his column. Fitch, who is gay, desrcibes many characters as "she" but has he simply changed the gender to make a point? Do they exist as he sees them. Does Mr. Fitch see himself as married or is he actually alone? Indeed, is "Mrs.Fitch" herself real or is she simply his muse who pushes him to write something meaningful? So okay, there is more food for thought here than I originally considered there to be. One more star, and apologies to Mr. Beane for rambling back and forth in this mini-blog, a form that Mr.. Fitch despises. Keep playing that acordian Mr. Beane, Ill listen more carefully next time.
First, let me say that I am a big fan of Douglas Carter Beane. I loved THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED and XANADU so I was looking forward anxiously to MR.AND MRS.FITCH. I was sorely disappointed. Beanes humor, as witnessed in his other shows, can be scathing and hilarious. In his latest play he throws in a barrage of "Look what I know" references, and "Look how clever I can be", dialogue, that they play reminds as nothing more than a young child performing for his familys guests, almost panting waiting for their approval. "Play your accordian, Douglas", and Douglas is more than happy to oblige. The audience for this play will fall into three sections, the first not knowing what the hell Beane is talking about, the last being on the same wavelength and laughing hysterically to let the others in the audience know that they are in on the joke, and the middle group who know the references and dont care, smile while they sit waiting for a play to develop. Alas, it never does and all audience gets is a barrage of rapid fire jokes about a gossip columnist and his muse of a wife. I was not a-mused! I love you, Mr. Beane, and look forward to your next work.This one left me cold.
Intelligent, Hilarious, and Truly Entertaining! John Lithgow is AMAZING!
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