Sunday, November 17, 2013

Small Engine Repair ****

For the first 45 minutes or so, John Pollono's play at MCC Theater appears to be just one more raunchy blue-collar buddy reunion comedy, albeit one with unusually well-written dialogue and well-differentiated characters.  Frank (playwright Pollono), the mid-30's owner of the titular repair shop in Manchester, NH, has tricked his two oldest friends, the slight, sensitive Packie (James Ransone) and the commitment-phobic ladies' man Swaino (James Badge Dale), into coming over to the shop after work. Although their friendship dates back to childhood, Packie and Swaino have become estranged and the three have not spent time together in years. Frank plies them with beer, scotch, weed and the promise of the drug Ecstasy, soon to be delivered by Chad (Keegan Allen), a college boy from Boston, who deals on the side. I don't want to give too much away, but I don't think it will hurt to mention that the perils of social interaction in the internet age come into play. When there is a sudden shift from comedy to thriller, it comes as a real jolt. Rarely have I seen an audience more engrossed than during the climactic scene. I will grant that the play is manipulative, but sometimes it's fun to be manipulated. The resolution may be politically incorrect, but it has the ring of plausibility. The actors are all sensational. The set by Richard Hoover is terrific and the costumes by Theresa Squire are wonderful. Jo Bonney's direction is assured. Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission.

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