Theater Review: YOGA PLAY (Laguna Playhouse)

by Tony Frankel on October 7, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional

Post image for Theater Review: YOGA PLAY (Laguna Playhouse)


Not only is yoga a gentle exercise and a Hindu spiritual discipline, it’s also an $83 billion international industry. Meet Joan (Susi Damilano), a new marketing director of Jojomon, a yoga merchandise conglomerate. She actually could care less about yoga; she’s going for numbers and new markets. When the CEO (Joe Estlack) goes on an unplugged month-long retreat, Joan — surrounded by people who value yoga as a way of life — is left to hold down the mat with her two assistants: Singapore-born Fred (Ryan Morales) and American-born Raj (Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari) of East Indian descent. When a PR bĂȘte noir threatens the company image, Joan goes into overdrive, going so far as to hire a hackneyed acme guru from India to infer Jojomon’s trustability. When the guru turns out to be less than what they conjectured, the team is left to fix the situation fast.

Although the satire is keen, Act I of Dipika Guha’s fun Yoga Play is disappointingly mostly a set-up. But Act II roars into action with hysterical results. Guha manages to keep things interesting while making a comment about corporations and our addiction to the next best — or in this case biggest — thing (Joan wants to introduce “plus sizes”). But even though the payoff was huge in Act II, the evening felt flat, with a Saturday night house barely laughing and patrons exiting in between scenes in the first act.

This transfer from the estimable San Francisco Playhouse has come practically as one — including the director Bill English and most of the original cast. I believe that little has changed in the way of Nina Ball’s set, Mike Billings’ lights and Rachel Heiman’s pitch-perfect costumes. It also feels like little has changed in the way of actors’ reactions, some of which seemed predestined. It’s a perfectly harmless evening, but Mr. English would have done well to restage somehow for the Laguna Playhouse, as well as taking into account a completely different audience (read: conservative) than in S.F. (although I doubt it was the F-bomb that made people bolt). It was just very difficult connecting with these characters — as if the timing was off or chakras were blocked — even as the actors did great work, including Ayelet Firstenberg as both an L.A. yoga tutor for the Hollywood elite and a befuddled overseas employee.

photos by Jessica Palopoli, San Francisco Playhouse

Yoga Play
Laguna Playhouse
606 Laguna Canyon Drive in Laguna Beach, CA
ends on October 13, 2019
for tickets, call 949.497.2787 or visit Laguna Playhouse

Leave a Comment