Front, from left, Ryan Morales, Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari and Susi Damilano, and Craig Marker, onscreen, are amusing in “Yoga Play.” (Courtesy Jessica Palopoli)

Materialism abounds in funny ‘Yoga Play’ at SF Playhouse

The road to enlightenment is paved with stress and subterfuge in “Yoga Play.” Dipika Guha’s satirical comedy, now making its Bay Area debut in a San Francisco Playhouse production under the direction of Bill English, offers a glimpse of what happens when the goals of personal fulfillment and corporate greed collide.

At first glance, Jojomon, the apparel giant cranking out the yoga pants every woman wants, couldn’t be more successful. Profits are at an all-time high, and one look at the sleek Asian-themed office of CEO Joan (Susi Damilano) suggests serenity and high-mindedness.

But if “truth” and “authenticity” are the company’s goals, why does everyone look so worried?

Turns out that Jojomon is embroiled in a scandal, one that started when customers complained that the fabric in the company’s pants was thin to the point of transparency. When Joan’s predecessor remarked that maybe the problem was that women’s thighs were too fat, a firestorm erupted (shades of Lululemon.)

In a Skype call to company founder John (a comically spacy Craig Marker), Joan, backed by team members Raj (Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari) and Fred (Ryan Morales), proposes making the lavender-scented pants in bigger sizes. With John’s reluctant approval, she arranges a new contract to have the pants produced in Bangladesh.

When the next scandal hits, it’s serious. The BBC breaks the story: Jojomon’s pants are being made in sweatshops by children working 12-hour days.

In a classic diversionary strategy, Joan comes up with a plan: Jojomon has to hire a guru to purify the company’s image. If that requires taking authenticity past the limits of verisimilitude, so be it.

English paces the action effectively, letting the characters assert themselves in the play’s quieter scenes and eliciting moments of broad physical humor in more accelerated ones.

Damilano is a strong and suitably frazzled Joan; Bakhtiari’s Raj and Morales’ Fred acquire depth in episodes exploring their respective pasts.

Ayelet Firstenberg shines as a high-strung yoga teacher, and Marker is very funny as the cluelessly self-centered CEO and a one-size-fits-all guru.

Hrundi V. Bakshi and Shannon R. Carroll make well-timed contributions.

Nina Ball’s set design, backed by a huge round video screen, supplies colorful backdrops and the prevailing techie feel.

With its embedded surprises in Act 2, Guha’s script does a fine job of revealing the divide between aspirations and limitations, a notion keenly felt by each character in his or her own way.

In the end, “You cannot escape your life,” one observes, “it always finds you.” On the road to authenticity, that line has the ring of truth.

REVIEW

Yoga Play

Presented by San Francisco Playhouse

Where: 450 Post St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes April 20

Tickets: $35 to $125

Contact: (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org

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