Dates and Venue February 7 - 16, 2019 | Main Stage Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond
Director Jovanni Sy Set Designer Sophie Tang Costume Designer Amy Mcdougall Lighting/Video Designer Chengyan Boon Sound Designer Mishelle Cuttler Props Master Carol Macdonald Stage Manager Susan Miyagishima
Reviewer John Jane
Back in the seventies, when I once undertook the journey to personal fulfillment, yoga was for many something to do at lunch break where one might go to a cramped studio and attempt a downward facing dog or a mountain pose. For some, yoga would mean heading for a country retreat and sit on the floor in a lotus pose for hours meditating with your favourite Swami. Alas, in this new millennium yoga has become a business opportunity – and a profitable one at that!
Yoga Play, by young Calcutta born playwright Dipika Guha, is hardly about yoga, although, there is one hilarious scene when yoga is attempted – sort of. Neither is the play set in India, the de facto birthplace of yoga, but in California. Guha’s comedy is an outrageous satire about Jojomon, a fictitious manufacturer of high-end yoga apparel whose bottom-line has been seriously jeopardized by insensitive remarks about the girth of some of their clients (who they prefer to regard as “family”). Remember the LululemonTM scandal? LululemonTM founder Chip Wilson’s controversial remarks about their pants not working for some women’s bodies seems to have provided the genesis for this play.
Joan (Lois Anderson), Fred (Derek Chan) and Raj (Chirag Naik) are marketing executives who have been given the task of putting the company back on an even keel since its unfortunate misstep. New CEO Joan has an idea on how to restore the company’s reputation, though, in point of fact, it’s Joan whose reputation needs rebuilding after a breakdown cost her previous job. It is an obvious paradox that this trio appear constantly overwrought and high strung, despite being employed in an industry whose mantra is bringing about tranquil well-being.
When a further, even more serious scandal breaks, Joan, Fred and Raj resort to desperate measures. The rescue plan that Joan concocts is extreme and relies on Raj becoming an Indian guru. Sure, Raj is Indian through his heritage, but due to his upbringing, is completely westernized and is afraid that he will be seen as a fraud. The play’s other paradox is that a company that proclaims as its mission “Authenticity” is about to use a fake guru as its new spokesman.
Lois Anderson takes on the responsibility of providing the play’s anchor and generally does it well. It may be in the direction, but Derek Chan and Chirag Naik are guilty of overplaying their roles to the extent of being occasionally incoherent. Christine Quintana turns in a capable performance as Romola a yoga teacher recruited to help with the plan to save Jojomon.
Sophie Tang’s functional set of a modern corporate office leaves a lot of stage available and allows the audience to focus on the large twin backstage screens that provide a multi media facet.
Of course, there
is nothing wrong with new practitioners enthusiastically embracing an
ancient culture. Dipika Guha’s play doesn’t derogate western
acceptance. If anything, the play kind of promotes its benefits –
albeit satirically. Yoga Play is good, but it isn’t excellent.
The dialogue could be a lot sharper. This is to be Jovanni Sy’s
last production as Gateway Theatre’s artistic director. He’ll
certainly be missed. Too bad he couldn’t have left on a higher
note with material boasting a little more weight.
© 2019 John Jane