By Tanner Stransky
Updated February 23, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST
Joan Marcus

The media-savvy urbanite will savor every crazy morsel of Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, the new play by Douglas Carter Beane, the Tony-nominated playwright of The Little Dog Laughed. That’s mostly because the characters, the minutiae they talk about, and, natch, where they live, are just so neurotically New York. Tony winners John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle smashingly portray a married couple who write a gossip column (hello, Daily News‘ rumor patrol Rush & Malloy!). The duo constantly quote luminaries like William Shakespeare and Susan Sontag (as well as the much, much more obscure), and cavort around town on the city’s party circuit. The show even features transition notes reminiscent of the iconic tones used in Seinfeld. Does it get more neurotically New York than that?

The plot is set in motion when the Fitches, stuck on deadline with empty notepads, decide to concoct an interview with fictional ”it” boy Jamie Glenn. The flippant decision snowballs, of course, and what seems like the entire world starts clamoring for a taste of this hot, fresh, and totally fictional commodity. Which puts the frenzied Fitches, embodied by Ehle and Lithgow with comfortable chemistry, into a conundrum: Do they fan the obsession by continuing to write about the made-up celeb? Or chalk it up to a one-time slip and ignore the mess? You can probably guess what a couple of narcissistic New Yorkers obsessed with fame and glamour would do.

The banter-filled dialogue is so rapid-fire that it can get a tad exhausting. But overall, Mr. & Mrs. Fitch is the work of a fine writer. One particular scene, in which the couple mocks blogs, especially slays. ”I’m writing a blog about my blaaaah-g,” Ehle says, sticking her tongue out mockingly to emphasize the word. Lithgow responds, composing on a mock Twitter account: ”Oooh. Twitter. I…just…breathed. Isn’t…breathing…the best! Do you prefer inhaling or exhaling?” It’s funny because it’s true.

One of the play’s major strengths lies in its meta-awareness. ”Yes, you know, theater,” Lithgow intones during one of his many linguistic sword fights with Ehle. ”That thing that movie people do when they want to announce they’re available for television.” Yes, it’s that heightened, self-conscious cleverness that makes Mr. & Mrs. Fitch a riotous deep dive into the shallow waters of gossip. B+

(Tickets: or 212.246.4422)