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A CurtainUp Review
The Dirty Talk
I was not fortunate enough to see the original production of Michael Puzzo's The Dirty Talk in the 2005 New York Fringe Festival, but the show I saw on Saturday night at Center Stage has very obviously grown from the fertile soil of its past incarnation. This second time is charmed with Padraic Lillis' direction which is guiding and never overshadowing of the show's two dynamite actors, Kevin Cristaldi and Sidney Williams, and Puzzo's rich story shines.
Two men are stuck in a cabin in the New Jersey mountains, caught in a rainstorm that isn't letting up anytime soon. It doesn't sound like a premise for particularly high drama, but given that these two men met in a chat room online and that one of them was impersonating a woman, this shut-in first-time meeting has some real meat to it. Mitch (Sidney Williams) has just split with his wife of five years and is looking for love in all the wrong places. Lino (Kevin Cristaldi) shows up at Mitch's cabin hopeful that the connection they found in their online "conversations" is strong enough to allay Mitch's misgivings. An internal tug of war ensues for Mitch who wants so badly to connect but hides behind the gruff exterior of his masculinity.
Within this scenario, Puzzo's exploration of gender roles as a barrier to self-expression is both funny and touching. Mitch has grown up with his father's voice ringing in his ears, compelling him to "be a man" and leaving no room for him to show his emotions and vulnerability. It is the story of a man wanting desperately to throw off that yoke, seeking intimacy through sex and sex through a computer.
Puzzo also highlights the nature of fantasy and desire in both his characters. Mitch has been so busy trying to make his wife Katie happy and to be what she wants that he surrenders his own point of view. He tells Lino"I don't know what I like. I just know what I thought she wanted me to like.". Meanwhile, Lino has created a whole other existence for himself—someone with a screen name who can be whoever he wants. And at the end of the day, he says"I go up to my little room, open a bottle of wine, sit at my keyboard and dream. And who knows, maybe someday. . .I'll find another dreamer. Someone to dream with."
Puzzo's dialogue pops, clouded only at moments with pop culture references and characters pointing out the constructs of dialogue and figures of speech, which seem like an unnecessary crutch for a very talented writer.Robert Monaco's set is stark and captures Mitch's machismo well with one raftered room housing only a king-sized bed, a deer head on the wall, a computer desk, and a perimeter of moving boxes left by his ex-wife. Sarah Sidman's lighting. Elizabeth Rhodes' sound design convincingly create the howling tempest that locks these two men together and keeps them off-balance and Lea Umberger's are incredibly integrated into both actors' performances.
The Dirty Talk is not tied up nice and neat with a bow, but it is hopeful. Thanks to the incredible investment and playfulness with which this group of artists approaches their work, I was left with a racing mind and an open heart. Don't let this little show pass you by.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide