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Theater Review: “Mr. & Mrs. Fitch”

“Mr. & Mrs. Fitch” plays through April 14, 2019 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego.
Photo credit:
Moxie Theatre

“Gossip is just news that’s interesting,” says Mrs. Fitch (Sandy Campbell), one half of a team of gossip columnists in Douglas Carter Beane’s amusingly snarky 1998 two-hander “Mr. & Mrs. Fitch.”

She and husband Mr. Fitch (Andrew Oswald) have been writing a column for some years, getting invited to all the posh parties where they can mine a gossipy item or two.

Mrs. Fitch (we don’t get first names), rescued from the wilds of New Jersey, apparently saw Mr. Fitch and his New York connections as a ticket out of obscurity. Now, it seems, she would happily settle for a roll in the hay, but apparently (like the composer of the title tune, Cole Porter), Mr. F’s tastes lie elsewhere.

So they spend their time in clever repartee, singing show tunes, demonstrating their Charleston style and decrying the phoniness of the folks they are paid to write about.

This night, Mrs. Fitch asks her mate to “swear on a book you hold most dear” (he names Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation”) never to take her to another “goddamned sincere event,” where she will be subjected to regulars like

Himself-the-Elf, His Impoverished Lordship and Generalissimo de la Horror Show.

This night, the deadline approaches as Mr. F sits at the piano, singing Porter’s “Mr. and Missus Fitch,” from his 1932 play “The Gay Divorce” (remade in 1934 as “The Gay Divorcée, a film with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers).

Finally, Mrs. F suggests that Mr. F send that column before the editor calls. But alas, the idea well has run dry.  The Fitches are Gutenberg dinosaurs trying to survive in a post-print world, but their editor threatens termination if they don’t come up with something.

What to do? Why, make something up, of course. They invent a fascinating character called Jamie Glenn, write a news item and push “send” (after snarking about the online world that feeds them. Note the dismissive way Mrs. F talks about “blahhhgs”).  

Campbell, a staple on local stages, never gives less than a committed performance and does the same here, looking and acting every bit the upper-class ‘30s matron.

Oswald amuses by exuding competence and boredom, as he tiptoes around the oft-discussed wish to forsake gossip for the book they’ve talked about writing.

Kudos to Moxie Theatre for hosting Backyard Renaissance, a terrific but homeless theater that has just been named company-in-residence at La Jolla Playhouse for the next season.

Production values are high, from Jessica John Gercke’s splendid costumes to Tom Cucuzzella’s spiffy apartment set to FJ Fucella’s sound and Joel Britt’s lighting.

“Mr. & Mrs. Fitch” isn’t for all tastes. Beane’s point about the sinking quality of journalism is hardly a new charge, and this rat-a-tat bons mots fest can get exhausting, if not tiresome. But director Francis Gercke picked the right pair to pull it off and keeps the pace moving. Word geeks will love this.

The details

“Mr. & Mrs. Fitch” plays through April 14, 2019 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm