Michael Puzzo's popular play is a solid piece of theatre--it knows exactly what it wants to achieve and pulls it off. You won't find any bright fireworks here, nor will you find any real duds.
Rendered with understanding, and fans of the playwright will appreciate the opportunity to see it performed for only the second time in the UK.
The Dirty Talk starts off with a familiar scenario: two men, brought together for ambiguous reasons, are trapped in a room. After a rocky start, they talk life, love, and the internet. When we learn the real reason these two ended up in this situation, the plot thickens. Puzzo has commented that this is his most popular play and it’s easy to see why that might have been the case when it was written ten years ago. These days, however, its theme of masculine identity has begun to seem a little old hat.
The play's strength is its dialogue, which improves the somewhat prosaic story. At times it’s fast paced and witty with plenty of enjoyable put-downs. The longer speeches in which we really get to know the characters are elegantly phrased, though it does stretch credulity that these characters would open their hearts so readily. There are some touching character moments here too, as well as some genuine insights into the nature of the compromises we make when we live with those we love.
The performers handle what they are given well. James Sindall as Mitch conveys his character's impotent rage and pathos with skill, while Nicholas Hammond as Lino depicts both the character’s evident vulnerability and ultimate strength. They both work to draw out the contrast between the two men and create satisfying rhythms as the power continually switches between them. Despite their best efforts, however, the script just doesn’t create the opportunity for real depth of character, and the result is that we are left confused as to why we are being asked to invest so heavily in these characters, one of whom is tiresomely normal while the other is implausibly unusual.
Overall, the play never quite manages to lift itself out of the ordinary. It acquits itself well within its sphere, but that sphere is well-trodden and narrow. Having said that, it’s rendered with understanding, and fans of the playwright will appreciate the opportunity to see it performed for only the second time in the UK.