MR & MRS FITCHby Douglas Carter Beane
Amphibian Stage Productions
Directed by Krista Scott
Scenic Designer - Sean Urbantke
Costume Designer - Susan Austin
Lighting Designer - Aaron Lentz
Sound Designer - David Lanza
Properties Designer - C. Lee Gibson
Stage Manager - Jordan Kelly Andrews
Meg MacCary - Mrs. Fitch
Bradley Campbell - Mr. Fitch
Reviewed Performance: 4/13/2012
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Well then, welcome to the home of Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, the newest endeavor by Amphibian Stage Productions. It's an over-the-top, catty send-up of what gossip columnists do when they're no longer on the A or B Invitation List. Douglas Carter Beane's media-savvy, urbane comedy lets us in on this couple's desperate need to always be part of the in crowd, the new and now group that, in reality, comes and goes in the blink of an eye, leaving those in the wake constantly scrambling and reinventing themselves.
Mr. and Mrs. Fitch write a daily gossip column with all the juicy tidbits of who is with who, who's doing what, etc.
But these days, the events and parties they attend aren't producing enough "exclusives" for their editor.
After much drink and self-pressure, the two devise a scheme to bring them back to the top of their game. Beane's non-stop one-liners, massive name dropping and inside jokes provide lots of laughter and chuckles at the ridiculousness of these people's lives. However, the writing is unrelenting in showing their fake world, with pretentious dialogue that never allows us see these people when the tuxedos and gowns come off and it's just the two of them.
That's not to say Mr. & Mrs. Fitch isn't a fun evening of theatre, but you really have to stay alert to keep up with all the rapid-fire dialogue akin to an encyclopedia of playwrights, actors, authors, directors and poets. There is a litany of constant nicknaming the people the Fitches loathe but see at every event. This play is definitely written as a tongue-in-cheek jab towards, and for, "those theatre people".
Their small but tasteful two-level New York apartment is post-modern chic. Clean lines, white walls and red and black accent pieces, as designed by Sean Urbantke, reek pretention and you just know the couple had someone else pick out each and every piece. Modern paintings and African artifacts dot each wall or shelf, and only an out of place antique secretary, well-used books and upright piano show a bit of the Fitches' past lives. I smiled at the de rigueur coffee table tome, The History of Art, strategically placed. The kitchen is almost non-existent, their bar cart having more things on it than the refrigerator has in it - such is the world of these people.
The lighting by Aaron Lentz consists of full illumination with slow dims to black between scenes and acts. Two rows of drop lighting hang over the kitchen and staircase and having them be separate cues from the generals, dimming after the others, would make a nice visual change.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Fitch's costumes are trendy and stylish, especially her evening gowns and gorgeous red and black shirt-waist dress. Mr. Fitch has on the perfect evening shoes, the perfect velvet day shoes with no socks. Each piece, by Costume Designer Susan Austin, is expensive-looking, tasteful and representational of this couple's lifestyle.
One of my biggest pet peeves about sound is when it does not come from the direction or device onstage that it is meant to. So a huge "thank you" to designer David Lanza for not only having the effects placed appropriately but having them perfectly cued at the right volume. You'd think that would be a no-brainer but you'd be surprised. His music for pre-show and scene changes are spot-on with choices such as Betty Boop singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You" or Cole Porter's "What a Swell Party This Is".
Act I is a non-stop presentation of people being fake. Snippy and catty, the Fitches dish everyone and everything. The actors' physicality and verbal inflections go hand and hand with the fakeness. Dialogue is spoken unnaturally, as though read, which is primarily due to the script. In that regard, the acting works perfectly. Act II, however, gives the audience some relief and has moments of this couple at their most vulnerable. Both characters cease the word games and let their pretentious guards down. During this act, for some of the time, both actors manage to slow down and get real. But it is fleeting and Director Krista Scott lets those precious monologue moments go by under the weight of the daunting script.
And daunting it is. Displaying a well-balanced chemistry between them, both Meg MacCary and Bradley Campbell are breath-taking as the illustrious Mr. and Mrs. Fitch. By that I mean they never can take more than a breath between lines in this marathon of a play. The Fitches are well-educated people who have so perfected the art of the word game that each knows what the other is about to say and so the words fly back and forth, lines overlap and the audience hesitates to laugh lest they miss a tasty bit. But laugh they do at these two crazy columnists. I am surprised at the amount of physical comedy Scott puts these two actors through - racing up and down the stairs, sprawled over the piano, lying and flopping on the floor - all while reciting those unrelenting lines.
Meg MacCary has a natural rhythm with her words. It is hinted Mrs. Fitch comes from a less than stellar background which makes her a bit more vulnerable than her elitist husband. She understands her character well and you see glimpses of that vulnerability in Act II. MacCary's vocal inflections change completely and she speaks more naturally than all that pretentiousness in Act I. The real Mrs. Fitch shows through and it makes for a better-rounded character than if she played it entirely one level.
Bradley Campbell's Mr. Fitch stays ostentatious throughout the play, and the brief moments in the script where he too can slow down and let his "wall of words" defense fall are not utilized, leaving his character humorous but one-dimensional. Campbell has great comedic stage presence and, with his stature, goes for the broad laughs. Thus, the tender ending scene between the two comes out of nowhere because there is no defining transition bringing them to that point.
Amphibian Stage Productions calls Mr. & Mrs. Fitch a "scathing look at who is in, who is out, and who may not even exist at all". The play is a huge silver platter of bon mots, dished out with wicked good fun. And my dear . . . anyone who is anyone simply has to be there!
Amphibian Stage Productions
The Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107
Plays through April 29th
Performances are Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
Tickets are $25 regular, $20 seniors and $15 students.
To purchase tickets, please call 817-923-3012, email them at email@example.com or go to www.amphibianproductions.org.