Small Engine Repair Is Betrayed by a Stupid Climax


Working-class New Hampshire small businessman Frank Romanowski (John Pollono) dupes two childhood friends who hate each other, Packie and Swaino (James Ransone and James Badge Dale), into visiting his repair shop late one evening for what appears to be a night of heavy drinking, getting high, and reminiscing. But after a long stretch of crass, occasionally funny Northeastern banter among the three, Frank reveals that he has plotted revenge against a kid (Keegan Allen) who wronged his teenage daughter, and wants Packie and Swaino’s help getting even.

The script of Small Engine Repair has an invigorating flair for regional macho trash-talk, except for a few oddly articulate, insightful speeches. Not surprisingly, Pollono, the New England-bred lead actor and playwright, masters the archetype most convincingly in this MCC Theater production. Pollono makes welcome efforts to complicate two of the characters — Packie’s an unemployed bum yet a computer whiz, Frank has anger management problems despite his soft center — but the other two remain flat as week-old Guinness. The climax, however, is stupid, burdened by illogical turns that aren’t funny enough to excuse their unreality. Some may find it easy to leave a theater laughing and sympathizing with characters whose idea of vengeance means trying to cover up an attempted murder with a rape. But few would want to share a jail cell with them.