By Brian Scott Lipton
John Pollono’s award-winning play, “Small Engine Repair,” will be presented by MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, October 30-December 8, under the direction of the estimable Jo Bonney.
The comic thriller focuses on an off-hours meeting among New Hampshire repair shop owner Frank (played by Pollono), and his two high school buddies Packie (James Ransone) and Swaino (James Badge Dale), which is interrupted by the arrival of Chad Walker (Keegan Allen), a collegiate drug dealer.
Pollono, who wrote the play as a vehicle for himself while working in Los Angeles, admits the piece has autobiographical elements. “I know these guys well. It’s what my life might have ended up like had I chosen a different path,” he says. “If my old friends come to see it, I think they’ll recognize themselves.”
Despite the all-male cast, a lot of the play centers on the men’s view of women, say the actors. In fact, by the end of the work’s 85 minutes, you might not think about your wives, girlfriends, or daughters in the same way again, which was part of Pollono’s intention in writing the play.
That said, the four guys are looking forward to working in this mostly male environment. “Actresses are insane,” laughs Ransone. Still, they all agree having a female director on hand, especially one as experienced as Bonney, will help balance the testosterone in the room and add some needed balance to the proceedings.
Indeed, not having women co-stars will be one of the biggest changes for Allen, who is well known for his role as Toby Cavanagh on ABC Family’s female-centric drama “Pretty Little Liars.” While on one hand, Allen says he’d like everyone to come see the play, he does caution that the subject matter might be a bit too adult for the series’ teenaged fans.
The handsome actor is really looking forward to returning to his theatrical roots. “It’s so great to have rehearsal time and be able to really break down a scene,” he says. “On the series, you’re lucky if you get one day of rehearsal before you shoot. Theater was my first love, and after nearly four years on the show, I’m really excited to get back on stage. This is an exciting script and MCC is such a great company.”
It will also be a treat for the cast to work directly with the playwright – even if there’s one slight disadvantage. “I can’t change my lines as often I want to,” says Dale with a laugh.
*Photos: S Durell