PlayMakers presents Dipika Guha’s “Yoga Play” Feb 23–Mar 13, 2022. Photos by Michael Sparks.
In a world that commercializes everything from healthcare to fitness to spirituality, it’s often hard to distinguish wellness from trendiness. This confusing conundrum is at the heart of Dipika Guha’s complex and comedic “Yoga Play,” beautifully directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh and onstage now at PlayMakers Repertory Company.
Guha’s story is a modern one, full of allusions to some of the “crunchiest” fads around. It’s centered around not-so-centered Joan, portrayed by the talented Julia Gibson. She’s the newest CEO of athletic-wear giant, Jojomon, and has been tasked with rebuilding the brand’s less-than-PC reputation. With some forward-thinking and the help of co-workers Fred (Sergio Mauritz Ang) and Raj (Naren Weiss), she’s confident she can pull it off. But, then, the brand faces another publicity nightmare, forcing Joan to take some unorthodox (and desperate) actions. Her choice sets off a surprising chain of events that leads to some interesting interactions and, ultimately, a lot of soul-searching for everyone involved.
Jan Chambers’ clean, sleek set brings both the ultra-modern Jojomon office and the hippest “Somewhere, California” yoga studio to life in a wonderfully appealing way. Bordered by zen rock gardens, yet surrounded by subtle projection screens, it’s both functional and representative of the play’s themes. It’s a place viewers want to be, but should they? When a story that criticizes commercialism combines with a set that makes it seem so wonderfully soothing, viewers are forced to ask themselves the tough questions that Guha’s script posits: What is fraud? What is truth? What are people really searching for, and why are they looking in all the wrong places?
Of course, not every moment is fraught with these tough questions. "Yoga Play" is also a lot of fun. Some of the best moments come whenever the scene-stealing Mia Pinero is on stage. And, though she plays a host of characters, she’s most memorable as sweet-but-stressed Romola, the hilarious young yoga instructor Joan and staff turn to for help. Jeffrey Blair Cornell is also tasked with multiple roles, but adds the most lightness and hilarity in his Matthew McConaughey-esque turn as long-haired John Dale, Jojomon’s founder.
The humor sprinkled throughout keeps the show intriguing, but it’s never so overpowering as to detract from the tough topics explored here. Ultimately, viewers are left with lots to ponder and a few potent words of wisdom: “connect to your true self and know how to act.” In the world of the play, they come from a questionable source, but then, doesn’t most of the advice we follow? “Yoga Play” asks viewers to think about where their “wisdom” comes from, to question their judgments, but also to trust themselves when it really counts.
Never flashy but always fascinating, this is a wonderfully unique show, the kind modern theatre could use more of. Laugh, think, and listen because this is one production worthy of all three.
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