Small Engine Repair works at Flying H
by Jim Spencer and Shirley Lorraine
On a New Hampshire evening three former high school buddies, now in their mid-30s, reunite for an evening of alcohol, testosterone, tall tales, pot and erotic braggadocio.
The three – Packie, Swaino and Frank – arrive separately at Frank’s Small Engine Repair shop. Actually, Frank has invited each guy without revealing the other would be there. His ostensible goal is to smooth a rift between the others that started years ago. However, when a younger, fourth guest arrives it turns out there is a darker hidden purpose for the get-together.
This is the setting for Small Engine Repair, the dramady currently being presented by Ventura’s Flying H Theatre Group.
Playwright John Pollono has given each character a history of underachievement. Packie is unemployed and lives in his grandmother’s basement. Warehouse worker Swaino is obsessed with spreading his legend (in his own mind) as a super stud. Frank is a high school drop who started repairing small appliances when he became a father at age 17. Their back stories provide the comedy, raw dialogue, taunting and male rivalry on display in this 70-minute revenge comedy.
Enter Chad, played by Joshua Kahn. He is an entitlement-minded, over-privileged, college preppy who is a local supplier of ecstasy and pot. The social gap between the trio and the newcomer soon expands into a chasm that leads to a series of plot twists involving the internet and technology, as well as attitudes and hazards fostered by social networking.
The play features solid acting by Brian Robert Harris as Frank, Michael Wayne Beck as Packie and Eric Mello as Swaino, each of whom creates a well-defined character and gives a tightly balanced ensemble performance. Although, when they deliver dialogue in rapid fire fashion it is difficult to hear and catch it all.
The set of the fix-it shop designed by Flying H Theatre Group Artistic Director Taylor Kasch is superbly appointed with tools, stored detritus and things that will be needed someday. His personal garage has probably not been so empty in years because all his man cave stuff is on the set.
The direction by Kathleen Bosworth is equally artistic. The pacing, utilization of the actors, and other touches reflect a studied sophistication.
The script, first performed in 2011, is by a newer playwright. It has a few technical rough edges. For example, the playwright repeatedly uses the same device for the same purpose. Three times a character abruptly announces, “I have to pee,” and leaves the stage just so the action can continue as a two-person scene. Additionally, we found the ending to be less than equal to its build up. Nevertheless, the play is current, significant and for adults only.
Small Engine Repair plays Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays, October 9-18, and Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays, October 22-31. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. All other performances are at 8 p.m. Flying H Group Theatre Company, 6368 Bristol Rd. (between Johnson Dr. and Victoria Ave.) in the Montalvo area of Ventura. All seats $15. Cash or check only at the door. Reservations recommended 901-0005. Advance tickets on-line at http://engine.brownpapertickets.com.