Yoga has become fashionable, in more than one way. As a workout, it requires clothing that is comfortable and – for some, at least – stylish. If one focuses on the stylish, one may never get to the spiritual principles underlying the practice of yoga. And, yet, those spiritual principles are ever present, even if below the surface.
Moxie Theatre concludes its fourteenth season with Dipika Guha’s Yoga Play, a satirical comedy that explores the fashion world of yoga. Its premise is promising, Moxie’s production is appealing, but the spirituality gets muddled, ultimately sinking the play.
Joan (Jo Anne Glover) is the new CEO of Jojomon, a yoga apparel company specializing in women’s yoga pants. Jojomon’s owner, Bernard (Matthew Salazar-Thompson), has hired her to get the company out of a slump caused by the previous CEO, who publicly blamed customers’ size for dissatisfaction with a model of pants that the company had sold. Bernard is no feminist, but he’s deliberately hired a woman CEO with instructions to get everything back on track.
Joan’s marketing team consists of Fred (Albert Park), a Singapore native with a questionable US visa status, and Raj (Sri Chilukuri), the American-born son of parents from India. Raj works all the time and is being pressured by his mother to find a girlfriend.
After brainstorming and some tug-and-pull, the team decides that it needs to appeal to the spiritual side of yoga as a means of luring back the alienated customers. The only problem is that none of the team knows anything about yoga as spiritual practice. Joan seeks out a well-known yoga teacher (Tamara Rodriguez), who turns out to be more concerned with her own celebrity than anything else.
Finally, the team locates a guru who they believe can repair the company’s image via a media appearance. But, that plan, too, unravels.
Ms. Guha has a sharp sense of what’s current and the ever-shifting vagaries of using popular culture to do business. But, when she ventures to the spiritual side, the sharpness dulls, resulting in leaving her actors not enough to play. Ms. Glover sets up the image of a new manager with some anxieties who nevertheless will lead her team to victory. Mr. Park and Mr. Chilukuri are both eager and appealing young men who become distracted by everything that goes wrong with their plans.
Ms. Guha wants her Act 2 to be madcap, in the tradition of “I Love Lucy” or a classic “Carol Burnett Show” sketch, but she doesn’t create the conditions for “madcap” to flourish. And, the spiritual side is a disaster. The main characters discuss dreams at several points, but the script doesn’t draw clear lines between the dreams and either the characters’ psychology or their motivations. Madcap for madcap’s sake gets old fast. There are a couple of “reveals” for Mr. Park’s character that seem to come from out of the blue. And, when the spiritual answers finally arrive, they’re in the form of bromides or clichés.
Under Callie Prendiville’s direction, Moxie has mounted a handsome production. Divya Murthy Kumar’s sleek scenic design cleverly provides multiple playing spaces, which are nicely lit by Christopher Loren Renda. Danita Lee’s costume design captures the casual aspect of a business that trends young, including some more outlandish costumes on display in Act 2. Matthew Lescault-Wood’s sound design conquers the play’s requirement for a number of speaker-phone conversations.
Ms. Prendiville directs with admirable detail, and the cast responds with appropriate levels of cool-and-collected, along with periods of semi-panic. But, the play’s ultimately a mess.
Performs Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; and Sundays at 2pm through June 2. Moxie is located in a strip mall, and parking is available on the property or along El Cajon Boulevard. Run time is approximately two hours including one intermission.