Three friends meet at a bar, and the drinks – and obscene banter – begin to flow. The bonds between these men are as strong as the whiskey they drink as they consider how wild they want to get that evening. None of them are prepared for where the night is taking them. John Pollono’s “Small Engine Repair” is Restless Artists Theater’s latest dramatic venture, handling some heavy material through the darkest of comedy. Under the direction of Dave Zybert, this gritty one-act explores complex nuances of aggressive masculinity, social media bullying, and how to justify vengeance.

Bar owner Frank Romanowski (Kevin McCray) has known his friends Packie (James Miller) and Swaino (Abel Echeverria) since youth. In well-rehearsed Bostonian accents, they share memories, trade insults, and recount their sexual conquests. Frank is the most reserved of the three; it seems fatherhood has mellowed him more than the others. As the crew’s voice of reason, it is a surprise to learn that Frank has invited a drug dealer to the bar to sell them some pills for a night of illicit fun.

Enter Chad (Brandon Busselman), a 20-year-old frat boy with a penchant for taking advantage of young women. He boasts about a girl whose X-rated images he recently shared online with his bros. Not realizing how out of hand it would get, he expresses some remorse but is overall nonchalant about his actions. It is at this point that the tone of the play changes drastically, and the men decide to teach this kid a few hard lessons.

The direction and acting are strong all around. Each of the characters are distinct and acted effectively. The plot is engaging and moves along quickly. Yet its quickness seemed a bit of a problem. Right after the story intensifies, it is over, and I was left wanting a second act. Though this is neither the fault of the actors nor the director, the story feels unfinished. It reaches a climax, but there is little resolution and some big questions left unanswered.

While “Small Engine Repair” is technically a dark comedy, the darkness greatly overtakes the comedy in the latter half of the show. Audiences should be prepared for harsh language and sensitive plot events, which may not be appropriate for younger individuals. I was entertained, but I wonder if Pollono would ever consider writing a second part to make the story more fulfilling.

 

If you go:

What: Small Engine Repair

Where: Restless Artists Theater, 295 20th St Sparks, NV  

When: Jan. 5 to Jan. 21