Theater review: Torrent of cultural references is half the fun of "Mr. and Mrs. Fitch"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Half the fun of Douglas Carter Beane’s “Mr. and Mrs. Fitch” lies in trying to keep up with its torrent of cultural references high, low and in-between. Start with the title, a reference to the Cole Porter song (from the stage musical “Gay Divorce”) about a nouveau riche couple whose rise and fall track with their cash flow. Then the text, skimming surfaces from Susan Sontag and Stephen Sondheim to Sarah Palin and Jacqueline Susann. The married gossip columnists of the title sound like an app that spews quotations prompted by word association.

The other half of the fun in Evolution Theatre Company’s production of the 2010 comedy lies in watching the acting couple Catherine Cryan and Ken Erney, married in real life, settle into their parts and try to wring some humanity out of Beane’s walking and talking Bartletts.

Seasoned observers of the New York scene, the Fitches must constantly feed the 24-hour news cycle with the new and the next. So when they need something juicy to conclude their current column, they resort to pure invention. We live in an age they’ve dubbed “post-integrity,” after all, and pursuit of a nonexistent up-and-comer is sure to generate some momentary buzz. And buzz it does, escaping their grip quicker than you can tweet.

Director Mark Phillips Schwamberger makes no more of this paltry plot than it deserves, instead allowing his actors to wallow in the quips and quotations. Yet watch Cryan build their fictional celebrity from the name up, “filled with promise and hope.” Then listen to Erney weave his second act anecdote about Generalissimo de la Horror Show, one of their column’s bold-named regulars.

Schwamberger and his actors can’t exactly flesh out this wisp of a play, but Cryan and Erney make it fun to watch them try.

Columbus Performing Arts Center, Van Fleet Theatre

Through Saturday, Oct. 25

549 Franklin Ave., Downtown