Regional Reviews: San Diego
Following a scandal in which the former CEO of Jojomon made a sexist remark, Joan steps in to fix the company's image. For a period of time, the hard work from Joan, Raj and Fred pays off. That doesn't last long though, as another incident threatens to ruin the reputation of Jojomon for good. The three eventually agree to find someone who can promote the spiritual elements of yoga. Once they start their task, the play shifts from a business satire about the aftermath of scandals to a modern farce.
Guha's script starts off strong, introducing audiences to the workers of Jojomon and their problems. Conversations between Raj and Fred are funny and occasionally poignant, and the scenes reveal a great deal about the pair as people, instead of portraying them as merely Jojomon workers. The play, however, isn't always as intelligent when dealing with the more farcical elements of the plot. There are some big laughs when the humor becomes broader, but Joan and her two employees take part in professional decisions that seem careless and don't appear to be well thought out by her, Fred and Raj. What keeps the tale engaging are the consistently funny jokes and Guha's empathetic treatment of the central roles.
Despite the lapses in logic, Associate Artistic Director Callie Prendiville, in her Moxie directorial debut, successfully builds up to the bigger jokes throughout the night. She expertly stages scenes such as an important meeting in the dark (Christopher Renda's lighting is surprisingly suspenseful in this scene) and a humorous meeting between a Los Angeles yoga instructor Romola (Tamara Rodriguez) with Joan and her employees. Helping Prendiville bring Jojomon to San Diego is Divya Murthy Kumar's set, which is a believable depiction of what a yoga company could look like. Also adding a sense of serenity to some of the disorderly situations is the sitar-heavy music in Matt Lescault-Wood's audio, which features covers of songs such as the Justin Bieber single "Love Yourself" and the "Mission Impossible" theme. Throughout the evening, Prendiville gets excellent performances that go beyond just humor, from the talented cast.
While the comedic moments for Joan might be in a lower key than that for the rest of the characters, Glover brings plenty of depth to the highly strung role. The CEO can come across as being too no-nonsense and businesslike, but Glover still can be likable and relatable. In a similar manner to Joan, Raj and Fred are given complete character arcs, and Chilukuri and Park find a strong balance between being funny and down to earth. In the smaller parts, both Rodriguez and Matthew Salazar-Thompson are witty in playing people important to the narrative, as well as in portraying a few other individuals in off-stage phone conversations. These roles rely a great deal on the actors using different voices, and these are impressive both on and offstage.
Yoga Play might work better as a humorous exploration of oneness than as a farce, yet the consistent comical energy and some touching moments do make the ending of Moxie's fourteenth season entertaining and occasionally deep. It'll leave you wanting to see more from Prendiville and Guha as storytellers.
Yoga Play, through June 2, 2019, at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego CA. Tickets start at $25.00 and can be purchased online at www.moxietheatre.com or by phone at 858-598-7620.