In the uprising of social media, we are all very aware that who we claim to be online might not necessarily be the truest reflection of who we actually are. It seems completely obvious that if we create new characters for ourselves, playwrights writing in this technological age are provided with plenty of inspiration for their own works too.
The Dirty Talk takes place in a cabin in a remote, mountainous part of New Jersey. Mitch and Lino are relative strangers to each other, but due to the weather the unlikely duo are stuck together. Despite a very rough beginning in the most dubious of situations, the pair soon find common ground as they discuss relationships and their very different approaches when making connections. This dark comedy explores how the internet gives these characters an opportunity to escape from their own lives and create a more favourable persona online.
Both the characters are written very stereotypically, which makes it difficult to find them likeable. Mitch is an angry, macho man who swears far too much and surrounds himself with the heads of animals his father had hunted. Lino is very camp, kind of annoying and very gentle. Indeed, these characteristics at the opposite ends of the spectrum are what makes these characters work so well together. As both men are so different, their relationship is rather fascinating. The pair manages to keep a comfortable distance from each other the whole way through, and the sense of unease between them never disappears.
The writing provides plenty of comedy and brilliant put-downs, which make the one-act play rather enjoyable to watch. However, the writing limits these characters rather than developing them. Mitch is not very expressive and it seems he would have more to say if he didn’t feel the need to swear so much. Lino often appears to be starting to say something but is cut off, and just timidly avoids speaking his mind. The actors do as best they can when considering the limitations of the script.
Overall, the play is like an episode of your favourite sitcom that feels like a let-down compared to the rest of the series. You laugh, but you wouldn’t choose to watch it when it comes on repeat. That said, Puzzo captures the risks and complications that the social media age brings and it is quite a fair critique on the way that people behave when hiding behind their screens.
The Dirty Talk plays at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 6 June. For more information and tickets, see the Jermyn Street Theatre website.