The Dirty Talk
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 14, 2007
I was so excited to get to see The Dirty Talk again that I temporarily forgot to put on my Objective Editor's Hat and assigned myself to review it even though (a) I had already seen and loved it at the 2005 FringeNYC festival and (b) I included it in my anthology Plays and Playwrights 2006 last year. So I guess impartiality isn't a strong suit of this review, but honest enthusiasm is: this one-act comedy by Michael Puzzo is very smart and very well-crafted, and this production, staged by Padraic Lillis and starring Sidney Williams and Kevin Cristaldi (all re-creating their roles from the FringeNYC version), is superb—one of the most satisfying and entertaining shows currently in New York.
The play takes place in a kitschily decorated cabin in what Puzzo describes in his stage directions as "the mountains of New Jersey." Here, two men find themselves stranded in the middle of a terrific rainstorm. One of them is Mitch, whose father owns this abode and who is temporarily living here following a recent, distressing, and apparently permanent separation from his wife. The other is Lino, a quieter, perhaps even effete fellow, whom Mitch is clearly not happy to be spending time with, despite having invited him here the night before. "You are not exactly the man I thought you were going to be," Lino shouts, in a rare flash of anger; to which Mitch can only respond, sadly, "Yeah...well...I've heard that before."
And that's all I'm going to disclose about the plot; see The Dirty Talk and find out how Mitch and Lino wound up together in this cabin, and why. When you do, you'll discover that Puzzo has created two resoundingly human characters in this play, men whose loneliness and hurts and needs are as simple as they are entirely familiar. Without ever feeling sentimental, and without ever becoming manipulative, the play takes Mitch and Lino on a journey towards understanding themselves and each other; even at 35, as these two are, it's possible to learn and embrace new information about ourselves and our fellows.
Now, lest I make the play sound too serious, let me be clear that The Dirty Talk is grandly comic. Puzzo knows how to write funny dialogue that's grounded in reality (check out this recent episode of the nytheatrecast, which includes a brief excerpt from the play, to get a taste of it). Lillis's direction feels pretty much perfect, guiding Williams (Mitch) and Cristaldi (Lino) through their paces with the precision of the greatest theatrical comic duos (think the Lunts or, if you're too young to remember them, think Lane and Broderick at their best).
Robert Monaco's garish cabin setting, replete with animal skins that shed all over everything and a deer's head mounted on the rear wall, is precisely what the comedy calls for. Lea Umberger's costumes, Sarah Sidman's lighting, and Elizabeth Rhodes's sound design (including a very convincing rain storm) complete the picture.
So, okay, I may not be as unbiased as I could be, but I'm nevertheless here to tell you that The Dirty Talk is excellent and also a great deal of fun. It deserves to become a huge commercial hit, and I hope it does. Catch it now for just $18 and become one of the first to find out just how good this piece is.