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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Small Engine Repair


One picture can ruin a life. — Frank
Frank (John Pollono), a working-class guy, assembles two friends from first grade in his repair shop one evening. They are Swaino (Jon Bernthal), a dapper type immaculately dressed in black and white, and Packie (Michael Redfield), a scruffy fellow hardly dressed at all and ragingly inarticulate to boot. He lays on first class booze and they are on their way to getting merrily drunk. But something's amiss here. Frank is nervous.

Halfway through this play written by as well as performed in by John Pollono for Rogue Machine at Theatre/Theater, the play takes a violent twist. It coincides with the arrival of a handsome well-dressed fraternity boy Chad (Josh Helman), who has dropped in to do an Estacy deal.

Despite the absence of women from the cast, they are all too present in the story and, in fact they drive it. Their stories are told with bitterness and rage by Frank and with a sneer by Chad and Swaino. When Frank lays out an array of sharp tools from various bags and drags the unconscious Chad into a chair where he binds him, something's coming and it's been planned for a long time. The other two are stunned initially but Packie suits up and goes along while Swaino ultimately caves. It's that first grade bonding thing.

Pollono uses words with devastating impact, although many of them are the four-letter kind. Andrew Block's direction is so natural it doesn't show. We feel they've just stood up and moved onto the stage.

David Mauer's production design suits the title: a small room with no windows and a big refrigerator in the center with the tools of Frank's trade neatly lined about.

This is a class play, as well as a guy thing. Chad's 19-year-old heedless joke about the nude pictures an 18-year-old girl has sent him and the way he spreads them around riles Frank to burning rage. It topples over when she goes into a coma as a result of her innocent one-on-one that becomes a mass giggle. Would she have done it if she had not been so impressionable? Would Frank have been able to bear the boys' laughing at her, teasing her and calling her names?

There's a disconnect here, typical of this generation, not only between the boy and girl, but between the four guys.< The beat goes on and only Swaino's threat at the end brings it to a stop.

Small Engine Repair
Playwright: John Pollono
Director: Andrew Block
Cast: Swaino (Jon Bernthal), Chad (Josh Helman), Frank (John Pollono), Packie (Michael Redfield).
Production Design: David Mauer
Sound Design: Tony Lepore
Where: Rogue Machine in Theatre/Theater, 5041 West Pico, Los Angeles. Reservations: 323-930-0747.
From 3/25/11 and extended to 6/05/11.
Fridays Mondays at 8:00PM.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on May 8, 2011.
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