Small Engine Repair- OH MY GAWD!!!

While I haven’t perused their entire catalogue, the Coen brothers are some of my all-time favorite filmmakers. And if asked a few years ago, I would have told you that them writing for the theater was an inspired idea. But their two attempts (or at least, Ethan Coen’s attempts) - his installment in Relatively Speaking and this fall’s Woman or Nothing - have not made any favorable impressions and they are a FAR CRY from any of their achievements on the big screen.

With Small Engine Repair, which opened last week at the Lucille Lortel Theater, I feel like we finally got our Coen Brothers production, both stylistically and in quality. Although, full disclosure, the premise and setting - three Boston guys reuniting in a repair shop for a night of hijinx - made me think of those Boston-set, Ben Affleck-directed films (in a good way) crossed with an earlier Coen brothers feature. But enough with the movie references.

Just as its short run-time suggests, Small Engine Repair is rather quick-paced and creates an atmosphere early-on. It could also arguably be one of the most “bro-iest” productions I have ever seen, with the foul language and misogyny on display. 

But even with the show on hyperdrive, the first half of it registers as a little empty. While we get a sense of the backstory and the characters before us - by all means, no small feat - the show bides its time until the twist/climax/whatever kicks in. I found myself scratching my head at the point of it all - complete with some clunky, inserted and chunkily-inserted dialogue slamming social media (uhh, what?). As I reflect now, the EPIC second half of the show dominates all recollection of the first half.

Having said that, I should have seen it for the set-up it was. Well, let me tell you…Shit.Goes.Down. I can’t really divulge too much without spoiling the story - minor hints, they involve some dude-on-dude (stage-acting) physical and sexual assault - but it bears repeating. SHIT. GOES. DOWN.

And it is one of the most entertaining, enthralling, disturbing and darkly comedic twists in the proceedings I have ever seen. Sitting in the first row certainly added to the experience - I felt like I was an accomplice to what transpired on stage. Major kudos to the ensemble for showing up to play - John Pollono (who also wrote the show), Keegan Allen, James Ransone and James Badge Dale. Badge Dale, in particular, is giving a pitch-perfect performance, channeling a Jeremy Renner-esque brash presence and swagger.

And the folks at MCC Theater deserve some credit for mustering up the gonads to depict some “tricky” (and some would even call it “uncomfortable") live-staging moments. Carrie had…well, its Carrie moments and Really Really featured date rape. And now, Small Engine Repair raised the bar with some physical and sexual assault. Expect S&M or torture or castration in a future outing. Keep raising that bar, you guys!

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich

No comments: