Theater Review: SMALL ENGINE REPAIR by John Pollono (Los Angeles)

by Harvey Perr on April 7, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR by John Pollono

THE VIRTUE OF SMALL ENGINES

In the mood for a heavy dose of machismo? The kind where three old chums get together and talk about pussy and big tits and reminisce about the old days? Who say “Let’s drink and talk less” and then drink more and talk more without revealing much more about themselves because, maybe, just maybe, there isn’t that much to reveal? And not just drink but drink from a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue mixed with beer and a bit of Jameson’s Irish thrown in for good measure because, well, why not? And, on top of that, get stoned? Where, if two of the guys need to talk about the third, the third conveniently has to go and take a piss? And, when it looks like that’s about all there is, a kid walks in with some Ecstasy to sell, adding, finally, an element of suspense?

Small Engine Repair by John Pollano - Rogue Theater - Theatre/TheaterWell, boy oh boy, have I got the play for you! It’s called Small Engine Repair. It’s by John Pollono. And it’s another production from the vital and exciting Rogue Machine. It’s messy and contrived, as you might have guessed from the introductory paragraph. Two of the actors, who are supposed to be in their thirties, look far too young. And the drug dealer, who is in his very early twenties, looks like a contemporary of these two. A cramped and properly ugly engine repair shop has been affixed to the set of Rogue Machine’s The Sunset Limited (still in performance once a week).  And the play itself, for a long time, is as predictable as most plays in this genre usually are, and the characters are not seen with any particularly illuminating insight.

Small Engine Repair by John Pollano - Rogue Theater - Theatre/TheaterBut, hold on. Before its compact seventy minutes are over, the play becomes a devastating commentary on the dangers of the internet, the position of women in society, and the madness of single parenting, to name just a few of the subjects Pollono is trying to deal with. It would be unfair to say anymore, because, when the surprises come, they come rushing at you from so many different directions that it proves unsettling at first and strangely satisfying at last. And Pollono is actually able to follow one of the most horrific scenes you’re bound to come across anywhere with a twist that is genuinely comic. It may seem hateful to introduce laughter at such a moment, but there is no question that it comes as sorely-needed relief. It adds outrageousness to clamminess and makes one feel that, despite the dramatic short cuts he takes too often, Pollono is a playwright to watch.

Small Engine Repair by John Pollano - Rogue Theater - Theatre/TheaterAnd, regardless of whether the actors are old enough or young enough to be totally credible, the performances of the actors – each and every one of them – are so on target that it is downright uncomfortable to be so close to them in such a claustrophobic atmosphere. They are most assuredly aided by Andrew Block’s in-your-face direction. Pollono has given himself the part of the most mature of the three buddies who turns out to have a nightmarish objective that belies his surface reasonableness. Josh Helman as the collegiate Ecstasy dealer is asked to go through so many changes in such a short period of time that it is pretty damned amazing that he makes those transformations so plausible. But Jon Bernthal’s swaggering womanizer and Michael Redfield’s ineffectual layabout are the most riveting of this testosterone-filled quarter. If context is everything, it was thrilling to see such terrific acting the night after seeing the overplaying of the actors in Burn This. Some of the best actors in Los Angeles are not necessarily working in theaters that can pay them.

Most of Small Engine Repair feels raw and unfinished, but it has an energy that eludes more polished productions of more studiedly articulate plays.

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

photos by John Flynn

Small Engine Repair
scheduled to close April 30 at time of publication (check for likely extensions)
for tickets, visit http://roguemachinetheatre.com/

 

 

Theater Review: SMALL ENGINE REPAIR by John Pollono (Los Angeles)

 

THE VIRTUE OF SMALL ENGINES

 

In the mood for a heavy dose of machismo? The kind where three old chums get together and talk about pussy and big tits and reminisce about the old days? Who say “Let’s drink and talk less” and then drink more and talk more without revealing much more about themselves because, maybe, just maybe, there isn’t that much to reveal? And not just drink but drink from a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue mixed with beer and a bit of Jameson’s Irish thrown in for good measure because, well, why not? And, on top of that, get stoned? Where, if two of the guys need to talk about the third, the third conveniently has to go and take a piss? And, when it looks like that’s about all there is, a kid walks in with some Ecstasy to sell, adding, finally, an element of suspense?

 

Well, boy oh boy, have I got the play for you! It’s called SMALL ENGINE REPAIR. It’s by John Pollono. And it’s another production from the vital and exciting Rogue Machine. It’s messy and contrived, as you might have guessed from the introductory paragraph. Two of the actors, who are supposed to be in their thirties, look far too young. And the drug dealer, who is in his very early twenties, looks like a contemporary of these two. A cramped and properly ugly engine repair shop has been affixed to the set of THE SUNSET LIMITED (still in performance once a week). And the play itself, for a long time, is as predictable as most plays in this genre usually are, and the characters are not seen with any particularly illuminating insight.

 

But, hold on. Before its compact seventy minutes are over, the play becomes a devastating commentary on the dangers of the internet, the position of women in society, and the madness of single parenting, to name just a few of the subjects Pollono is trying to deal with. It would be unfair to say anymore, because, when the surprises come, they come rushing at you from so many different directions that it proves unsettling at first and strangely satisfying at last. And Pollono is actually able to follow one of the most horrific scenes you’re bound to come across anywhere with a twist that is genuinely comic. It may seem hateful to introduce laughter at such a moment, but there is no question that it comes as sorely-needed relief. It adds outrageousness to clamminess and makes one feel that, despite the dramatic short cuts he takes too often, Pollono is a playwright to watch.

 

And, regardless of whether the actors are old enough or young enough to be totally credible, the performances of the actors – each and every one of them – are so on target that it is downright uncomfortable to be so close to them in such a claustrophobic atmosphere. They are most assuredly aided by Andrew Block’s in-your-face direction. Pollono has given himself the part of the most mature of the three buddies who turns out to have a nightmarish objective that belies his surface reasonableness. Josh Helman as the collegiate Ecstasy dealer is asked to go through so many changes in such a short period of time that it is pretty damned amazing that he makes those transformations so plausible. But Jon Bernthal’s swaggering womanizer and Michael Redfield’s ineffectual layabout are the most riveting of this testosterone-filled quarter. If context is everything, it was thrilling to see such terrific acting the night after seeing the overplaying of the actors in BURN THIS. Some of the best actors in Los Angeles are not necessarily working in theaters that can pay them.

 

Most of SMALL ENGINE REPAIR feels raw and unfinished, but it has an energy that eludes more polished productions of more studiedly articulate plays.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

photos by

 

scheduled to close XXXXXXXXXX at time of publication

for tickets, visit XXXXXXXXXXXX

 

{ 1 comment }

Jason Wittman April 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Having seen the exact same performance, I concur with all your comments. For the reasons given, I’d recommend seeing this play.

Comments on this entry are closed.