Review by Peter Foldy
First produced in L.A. in 2011, and off Broadway in 2013, SMALL ENGINE REPAIR is a taunt, character-driven drama that uses humor to draw you in before taking us to the dark side.
Written by John Pollono, who starred in both previous incarnations, the story introduces us to three former high school friends from New Hampshire who are slowly drifing into a life of mediocrity. Despite a rift that keeps widening, Frank, (Nick Reinhardt) Packie (Brandon Irons) and Swaino (Johnny Rivas) share a lifelong brotherhood that Frank hopes will help him carry out his soon to be revealed scheme. Calling a summit at his out of the way garage, he suggests to gullable, kind hearted Packie that he may have received a cancer diagnoses while promising sex obsessed Swaino a night of booze and strippers. A single dad since the age of 17, Frank knows exactly what motivates his pals.
Pot and alcohol quickly fuels the impromptu reunion and the nature of their relationships are cleverly revealed through sharp, snappy banter that only best buds can pull off with ease. Much of the dialogue is sprinkled with insults and dick jokes, and many are frickin’ hillarious. Social media, and our current obsession with it, is also cleverly woven into the fabric of the story and that thread ultimately pays off in the jaw dropping reveal that is to come.
When Frank finally informs Swaino and Packie that he has invited a 19 year old part time drug dealer to drop by with some Ecstasy, the guys know for sure that Frank has an agenda.
When Chad arrives it is clear that he is not cut from the same cloth as the other three. A spoiled, good looking frat boy, Chad wastes no time in letting them know that he’s got it all going on. Sex, drugs, a basketball scholarship and a daddy who is available to get him out of any jam if need be. Chad oozes white privilege and it wasn’t hard to feel an Eric Trump or a Jared Kushner vibe as he shared his background and point of view.
We soon discover the real reason Chad has joined the party. It’s not for the Ecstasy that he is peddling but infact something far more damaging and personal to Frank. Lets just say the kid is in deep shit and his presence and loose lips rapidly helps shift the dynamic.
It takes strong chemistry to make us believe the close bond that is at the heart of this story. All four actors have it in spades. Rivas and Irons get their moment to shine, and shine they do, particularly Irons who gets the biggest laughs of the night, but it is Nick Reinhardt who grounds the performance. He has the depth and conviction to make us believe that Frank is capable of pulling off what he has planned.
We only meet Declan Laird as Chad half way through the play. He saunters in with an upper class swagger that soon turns to panic. In a solid performance, Laird pulls the transition off effortlessly. Like the other three, he is an actor to keep an eye on.
Jo Galloway’s direction is fluid. She has her cast using every inch of the small but impressive set as she cleverly raises the tension. Clocking in at just over 70 minutes the show is a roller-coaster ride. The ending may have the squeamish closing their eyes, but the rest of us will surely be talking about it long after we’ve left the theater. Which ever camp you fall into, I can promise that you will not be bored. This production of “Small Engine Repair” is clearly a winner.
When: Running Fridays and Saturdays from February 8, 2019 through March 2, 2019 at 8:00pm
Where: The Broadwater Second Stage, 1078 Lillian Way | Los Angeles CA 90038 (enter from Santa Monica Blvd)
How Much: $25
For tickets and more info log onto: https://www.showorksentertainment.com/smallenginerepair
Photos by: Sean McGee