The athleisure clothing biz gets a skewering in Moxie Theatre’s production of Yoga Play, which also purports to being incisive about cultural appropriation and gender dynamics. But essentially Dipika Guha’s work, which premiered two years ago at South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa, is a high-level farce reliant upon stage antics and sight gags.
That’s not a problem. Quite the opposite. After a gabby first act, Yoga Play hits its comedic heights in the second act, notably in a scene in which a dippy yoga teacher (Tamara Rodriguez) is schooling the clothing company exec (Sri Chilukuri) who’s posing in ludicrously fake beard as a renowned yogi. This requires some explanation: When a public relations scandal hits, the new CEO of Jojoman (an obvious take on the athleisure outfit Lululemon) decides that the damage can best be minimized by having an authentic yogi speak for the company and its sincerest (wink wink) intentions. When the yogi who is recruited (Matthew Salazar-Thompson, intoning like Peter Sellers in “The Party’) turns out to be a fraud with his roots in Santa Monica, CEO Joan (Jo Anne Glover) drafts colleague Raj for the job. It’s a very contrived premise, but the Moxie cast directed by Callie Prendiville brings its “A” game to the stage.
Chilukuri proves more than up to the task of transforming himself from one of Joan’s two trusted execs (the other being Albert Park as Fred) into the awkward faux-yogi he’s coerced into portraying, which he deems offensive to his cultural heritage. Whether he’s enduring the enigmatic silences of the recruit by way of Santa Monica or the aggressive tutelage of the off-the-wall instructor Romola, Chilukuri’s comic exasperation never wanes. Fittingly, however, Raj facilitates the story’s consciousness-raising denouement.
Glover’s Joan is funniest when she’s fainting or on the verge of doing so, and Park’s Fred when he’s recounting dreams, particularly one about a talking bird using foul – or is it fowl? – language. As for Salazar-Thompson and Rodriguez, who are playing the broadest characters, each just goes for it.
Silly as it can be at times, Yoga Play successfully sends up the corporatization of mindfulness and the commercializing of dressing right, and at the right price, to achieve it.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 5/15/19.)
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat