Reviewed by Eric Miles Glover
What happens when two complete strangers meet face-to-face as the result of an Internet hookup? Do the perfect identities (read: the impossible and improbable identities) that the strangers feign over an Internet connection prove reliable and truthful?
What happens when one stranger--misguided about the true gender of the other--is forced to bond, as the rain shower and thunderstorm that temper outside the isolated cabin in the mountains of N.J. (the site of hookup consummation) prevent the escape of either person? The Dirty Talk, a theatrical lollapalooza, answers the questions and provides a comical exploration into a popular but taboo trend in American culture.
It is no wonder The Dirty Talk was the "sleeper hit" of the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival. Playwright Michael Puzzo wrote a comedy with sufficient heart and humor to suffuse his superb craftsmanship, language, and quasisociological investigation into the mind. His characters--Mitch, a man on the rebound from a long-term romantic relationship with a thin-skinned woman, and Lino, a man who, through adult IMs, pretends he is a Perfect Ten (a woman) to re-erect Mitch--speak about father-son relationships, loneliness, and performances of manhood with a genuineness and grace that induce enough "ahhhs," "awwws," and laughs to last an x number of lifetimes. Mitch and Lino are men who excite and resonate with the viewer.
Sidney Williams (Mitch) and Kevin Cristaldi (Lino), under the direction of Padraic Lillis, return to roles from the 2005 Fringe Festival. The men are delightful--pleasurable--as oddballs who find themselves in a bind. It rings false that Mitch, a man whose BO oozes machismo and toughness, does not harm (blind? kick? punch? strike?) Lino, a man who leads him to believe that he is a blond bombshell. However, the mere contrivance of the comedy, coupled with the comedic genius of the performers and playwright, allows the viewer to ignore the few minor discrepancies and, instead, experience the antics and eccentricities of two perfect strangers.
The Dirty Talk, by Michael Puzzo, directed by Padraic Lillis, with Kevin Cristaldi and Sidney Williams, continues through February 4, 2007, at Center Stage, 48 West 21st Street, 4th Floor, (212) 352-3101, $18.