Sandy Campnell and Andrew Oswald in "Mr. and Mrs. Fitch." Photo by Daren Scott
Backyard Renaissance’s Mr. and Mrs. Fitch is a showcase for its actors, Andrew Oswald and Sandy Campbell, and a show-off for its playwright, Douglas Carter Beane. As the married co-authors of a snarky gossip column, Oswald and Campbell have as much fun as seems humanly possible on a stage for two hours. They trade quips and affectionate barbs, duet on Cole Porter (the play’s title comes from a Porter tune for the musical Gay Divorce), and in Campbell’s case rock beautiful evening gowns. The fly in the champagne, however, is Beane’s overindulged script, which works so damned hard to be cultured and sophisticated. As a result, the more Mr. and Mrs. Fitch ooze high-society bon mots and conspicuous literary references (to Blake, to Yeats, to Donne, to Hemingway, and so forth), the less believable they become.
This does not detract from the joyful performances by Oswald and Campbell, whose chemistry and timing are impeccable. Director Francis Gercke appreciates the lively pace called for in this play, and his experienced actors never miss a beat. Each character has one extended monologue that interrupts the flow, but again, that’s courtesy of the playwright, whose 1997 As Bees in Honey Drown is just as clever but much more cohesive than the 2010 Mr. and Mrs. Fitch.
As for the Fitches, in this tale they’re trapped (if living in a swank Manhattan duplex can be called trapped) between the wicked fun of churning out “celebrity” gossip and their growing contempt for new media (blogs, Twitter, et al) and the infotainment that is its life blood. When, more out of situational desperation than of guile, they invent a VIP celeb named Jamie Glenn, “he” becomes a tabloid sensation, with other scribes even co-opting his biography. This undoubtedly is Beane’s jaundiced, and justifiable, take on what constitutes news. But in Mr. and Mrs. Fitch the crisis never seems at all serious, nor is there any doubt that the Fitches, in spite of not being on the same page sexually (also played strictly for laughs), will carry on, martinis in hand.
Still, Oswald and Campbell rise giddily above the deficiencies of the play itself and practically ensure a good time for anyone with a soft spot for Cole Porter, high style and verbal hijinx.(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 4/3/19.)
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat