A slender young man sits alone in a hunting lodge, up in the Jersey mountains. The floor is littered with packing boxes, and a mounted stag’s head gazes mournfully down upon him from the wall. Rain batters against the window. Suddenly a soaking wet, angry bear of a man erupts through the door clutching the tortured corpse of an umbrella, which he proceeds to put out of its misery by violently hammering it against the floor. This is Mitch, the current resident of the cabin, and his unexpected guest is called Lino – a fact that Mitch does not wish to know. In fact, he does not want to know anything about Lino at all. ANYTHING! All he wants is to get him out of the cabin; unfortunately for Mitch the car will not start in the pouring rain, so the two men are stuck together until the weather improves. And we are stuck in the cabin with them.
To while away the time, Lino sets himself the challenge of getting the surly, monosyllabic Mitch to open up, and in doing so reveals a little of the story behind his own camp, acerbic, slightly seedy persona.
There is an odd-couple-sitcom feel to the production, which is conversation-heavy and full of gently comedic moments. The writing is very clever; so much so that the actors occasionally have to step out of character in order to deliver Puzzo’s witty one-liners. Overall, however, the dialogue flows easily and naturally, and the rare moments of action, though slightly hampered by the small set, are handled with fluid efficiency by director Charlotte Westenra. The actors explore their respective roles with delicacy and charm, managing to become more and more likeable as the play progresses. Neither is entirely physically right for the part; James Sindall as Mitch is not nearly paunchy enough, while Nicholas Hammond is far too attractive to be truly believable as an awkward social outcast. Hammond makes up for this by being deliciously creepy – his delivery and mannerisms are occasionally reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, giving his character a slightly cartoonish air, though never quite slipping into parody.
How and why these two unlikely companions have ended up here is a question with which writer Michael Puzzo teases us throughout the play. Through hints, allusions and half-finished sentences we gradually piece together the circumstances that have brought Lino and Mitch together; their stories, while far from original, are touchingly human and engrossing enough to hold the audience’s attention for the duration of the fifty minute piece. This is first and foremost a play about identities; Mitch, after a lifetime of trying to be all things to all people has lost his identity, while Lino, unhappy with his, has created a whole new one for himself online.
Despite teetering on the brink of violence and darkness several times, The Dirty Talk is ultimately warm, accepting and hopeful. The final tableau is deeply moving, and we wish Mitch and Lino all the very best for the future.
Review by Genni Trickett
THE DIRTY TALK by MICHAEL PUZZO
at Jermyn Street Theatre
from Tuesday 2nd June to Saturday 6th June 2015
Michael Puzzo’s acclaimed one act dark comedy which was work-shopped at the LAByrinth Theater Company and first produced for the New York Fringe by the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman now enjoys a strictly limited one week run at the Jermyn Street Theatre.
Mitch’s girlfriend’s left him. He’s stranded in a hunting cabin in the middle of a storm. Someone’s just turned up to make his day even worse. During their tumultuous day together the two explore what defines being a man, the lies we tell each other and most devastatingly the lies we tell ourselves.
Michael Puzzo’s The Dirty Talk is directed by award-winning director Charlotte Westenra, Designed by Simon Anthony Wells and General Managed by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment. It is produced by Royal Row in association with Jermyn Street Theatre by special arrangement with THE GERSH AGENCY, 41 Madison Avenue, 33rd Floor, New York, NY 10010.
Wednesday 3rd June 2015