Monday, May 20, 2019

“Yoga Play”: To Thine Own Self Be True.

What comes first, what you wear in your yoga classes, or signing up for yoga? It has never been a big problem for moi, because I just don’t do yoga but the ‘clothes’ matter according to what I see coming from yoga classes. 

For Joan (JoAnne Glover) newly hired CEO of Jojomon HQ in Southern CA’s high-end yoga clothes line and someone that watches the numbers on the market, revenues and revenue growth, yoga wear is of the utmost importance.

Tamara Rodriguez and JoAnne Glover
In Dipika Guha’s “Yoga Play” now making its west coast premiere at Moxie Theatre through June 2nd, and with first time out of the box director Callie Prendivelle directing, expect a solid, fast paced, up to the minute, eye-opening, funny, somewhat bordering on the spiritual side, (umm) bright new play in the small venue in Rolando.

Frantically hysterical Joan and her two sidekicks, Fred and Raj (Albert Park and Sri Chilukuri) are at wits end thinking of new and innovative ideas to push their yoga line apparel Jojomon to new limits. Customers are complaining about the quality and size of the apparel.

Horror of horrors, they want to start manufacturing the pants in a size 10 or maybe even 14. In the past customers balked at the size limitations since one size does not fit all. Now, bigger sizes with an added bonus, lavender scented pants.

After convincing the company’s owner Bernard (Matthew Salazar-Thompson playing several roles and very well, thank you) to give the OK to the larger size, one might think their bottom line would drop because of their image. But to the contrary, it skyrocketed to the top, bigger sizes and all. Just when you think everything is going along in your favor, ‘life gets in the way’.  

Sri Chilukuri, JoAnne Glover and Albert Park
Unfortunately, a BBC investigative team got hold of the facts that the company in Bangladesh portioned out some of the manufacturing to Lotus Factory and conglomerates outside of Dhaka, and was using children workers instead of women, in sweathouses; locking them in the sweat shops and forcing them to work long hours under less than satisfying conditions.

The emails and tweets that followed after the story broke, forced them to reinvent themselves as customer friendly and authentic in order to reign in, convince and bring their customers back to the fold. “We are having an authenticity crisis.”

Closing out its fourteenth season, Guha’s satire “Yoga Play” fits right into Moxie’s playbook of covering women’s issues with plays by women playwrights, directed by women and with major decisions made by all female board. 

So it would seem natural that Joan, the new CEO of Jojomon is a woman. But she cannot do it alone. She calls on her two -team members Fred and Raj to help her come up with a solution and this is where Guha’s story gets a bit wonky. Don’t misunderstand it’s fun and bit kooky but does get to the nitty -gritty of a theme repeating itself, to ‘thine own self be true’. 

Albert PArk and Sri Chilukuri
The team comes up with the idea of bringing a spiritual leader to represent their company while lending an authentic face to the cause. Raj born, raised and educated in the states but whose parents are from India has no clue about his culture past, present and or future. He relies heavily on his parents to supply him with names of Guru’s, if you will, to bring back to the states to represent the company.

Swami Satyachandra, they are told is of the authentic Vedic culture of ancient India, and word somehow gets back to him (hiding in a cave) of his need to help with the messaging of authenticity for this company. After some heavy negotiation (of donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars to several Indian orphanages in the region), Raj’s uncle goes to bring him back to the company headquarters. (“I have known this day would come.”)

Fred, not so much down with all the plans, is forced into going along with it all if he wants Joan to sign off on his Visa to Singapore so he can go home and visit his parents and an old flame he left behind.

In the interim Raj and Joan seek out well known to ‘the stars’ yoga teacher, Romola (a hoot and howl Tamara Rodriguez) to help them overcome their own lack of spirituality.  (“Twenty-five is the new nineteen that’s what they say.”)

Albert PArk, JoAnne Glover and Sri Chilukuri
Jo Anne Glover, a yoga instructor herself, knows from whence she comes. I’ve never been in any of her classes (why would I?) but I have seen her coming and going to classes and I surely can attest to the fact that she is one hell of an actor. Put the two together and we have strength, high anxiety and the knowledge that she can put this company on top again; and that starts at the top.

Both Fred and Raj (Park and Chilukori) are as thick as buds sharing weird dreams during company breaks. Revealing some would take the fun out for future audiences. Just be prepared for ‘unusual’. Both young men, Sri Chulukuri making his debut at Moxie and Albert Park (Jade Heart”) are the yin and yang of the production and play well with and off each other.

But the most fun, actually hysterical, is watching Raj doing his thing as the real deal Guru dressed in some get up with a natty beard (Danita Lee) addressing the nation on how Jojoman will, when all else failed, bring the company back to basics and restore their brand of yoga as most knew it. If you are old enough to remember some 70 or 80’s TV comedy shows, this skit of his will look familiar.

Hats off to director Callie Prendiville.  While picking a terrific and most apt cast/ensemble for this particular production she manages to keep the audiences at bay for some time before revealing the true identity of the famous Guru while pacing the rest of her crew giving them time to let us in on some of their innermost secrets, dreams and desires.

The big surprise comes at the end of Act I, after giving Guruji  a very long monologue, Guha slams a MICKEY into our drink and all gasps come at once.

Time to get yourself to the theatre and join in on the fun and games.

Divya Murthy designed the well functioning set into several playing areas. Christopher Renda’s lighting is effective only allowing silhouette of faces to be seen. Matt Lescault-Wood sound design and Alicia Ynfante is responsible for the props. I was especially impressed with Tamara Rodriguez’ athleticism and her turn as an acrobat.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through June 2nd
Organization: Moxie Theatre
Phone: 858-598-7620
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd. San Diego CA 92115
Ticket Prices: $18.00-$44.00
Photo: Daren Scott


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