Breathe, stretch, and sell some clothes: ‘Yoga Play’ at Syracuse Stage (review)

Looking for yoga pants that spark Marie Kondo-like joy? Try the catalog of Jojomon, the fictional athleisure-wear company at the heart of “Yoga Play” by Dipika Guha, now on the boards at Syracuse Stage. Taking a satirical look at the American lifestyle business, comedy also takes aim at the complications of ethnic identity. “Yoga Play” is at times formulaic, but sharp satire and winning performances make it a welcome break from our winter of uncertainty.

At Jojomon, spirituality is commercialized. Employees and customers are referred to as family. The brand loyalty is fanatical. Sound familiar? The similarities to another giant exercise wear company are not coincidental. Like the real-life company that begins with an L, the male CEO of Jojomon has been ousted because of public fat-shaming remarks, undercutting the customer base.

New CEO Joan (Andrea Cirie) and executives Raj (Rishan Dhamija) and Fred (Ricky Pak) have been charged with righting the ship. Then there’s a child-labor scandal in the South Asian factory where the yoga pants are made, and the team goes into crisis mode.

Their desperation puts them in search of a genuine guru to become a public face of Jojomon to lend the company the authenticity to ride out the storm. The spiritual leader they find is not at all what they expect. A very funny (but familiar) plan B is laid out, and Joan, Raj, and Fred spin out of control trying to contain the PR disaster.

Playwright Guha hits some familiar contemporary tropes, winking at how the definition of cultural appropriation shifts to fit the convenience of the moment, and through Raj, highlighting the confusion of first generation Americans who might have only a tenuous connection to their cultural heritage. In contrast, Fred, who has emigrated from Singapore, has even more at stake as he wrestles with the reasons he left. Joan, who has given her life to her career, is ever cognizant of the role of a woman at the top of the food chain.

“Yoga Play” is in some ways a throwback to the type of comedy that kept Broadway humming until television sitcoms found a social voice. The final epiphanies may be little pat, and the machinations of the plot stretch plausibility to the breaking point. But when the show abandons logic and revels in flat out farce, who cares.

Under the guidance of new Syracuse Stage associate artistic director Melissa Crespo, the ensemble handles the comedy to dizzying effect. Dhamija and Pak share an easy physicality and great comic timing. When they share the dreams they’ve had, the effect is both funny and oddly moving. Together with Cirie’s exasperated Joan, they take the company’s mandated breathing moments to silly heights. Octavia Chavez-Richmond and Christopher Gurr nimbly move from role to role.

Using video and clever projections, “Yoga Play,” with a set design by Ann Beyersdorf, has a stylish look appropriate to the Jojomon pseudo-philosophy.

Although familiar in style and often predictable, “Yoga Play’s” satire more often than not hits the mark.

The Details

What: “Yoga Play” by Dipika Guha

Where: Syracuse Stage

When seen: Jan. 21.

Length of performance: 2 hours with intermission.

Family guide: Mature high school. A little vulgar language.

Runs through: Feb. 6. Video on demand available Jan. 30 through Feb. 20.

Information: 315-443-3275, www.syracusestage.org

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