• by Jim Gladstone
  • Tuesday March 26, 2019
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Fred (Ryan Morales), Joan (Susi Damilano), and Raj (Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari) engage in a breathing ritual together in "Yoga Play." Photo: Jessica Palopoli
Fred (Ryan Morales), Joan (Susi Damilano), and Raj (Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari) engage in a breathing ritual together in "Yoga Play." Photo: Jessica Palopoli

Dipika Guha's loose-limbed comedy "Yoga Play," now at the San Francisco Playhouse, offers plenty of posturing on the part of its characters, but little in the way of audience enlightenment. It's a series of amusing but insubstantial riffs on pseudo-spiritual capitalism, racial and sexual prejudice, and the wellness movement that never quite coalesce into a holistic perspective.

The play opens on the corporate campus of a Lululemonlike apparel company, Jojomon, as the firm is trying to bounce back from a recent scandal: A now-exiled founder has been booted for body-shaming larger women who wore the company's tights. The remaining principal, hippy-dippy John (Craig Marker doing his hempiest Matthew McConaughey), manifests on a giant circular screen via Skype, to hand over the operational reigns to a new executive hire, Joan (Suzy Damilano), who by dint of gender alone, it's initially implied, will make her a kinder, gentler sort of COO.

Surprise! She's a hard-nosed capitalist with neither a yoga practice nor a genuine taste for Jojo's crunchy-granola ethos. Still, when a new scandal erupts on Twitter — a manufacturing contractor in Kashmir is using child labor — she's quick to leverage the appeal of Eastern philosophy to win in the court of public opinion. "Get me a guru!" becomes her illogical mantra, as if importing an Indian mystic to make public appearances will somehow absolve the company of its sins.

It doesn't make dramatic sense, but it's a great excuse to send Joan's C-suite lackeys, Raj (Bobak Cyrus Bakhtiari), a thoroughly Americanized Indian American; and Fred (Ryan Morales), a gay Singaporean near the end of his visa stay, on the hunt for a mascot from the third world. Bakhtiari's Raj is a shaggy, hangdog counterpart to Morales' wry, quick-witted Fred, and they provide most of the evening's highlights with their Frick-and-Frack banter. The most absurdly entertaining (and most extraneous) scene in the whole play has the two men sharing recent dreams after lunch. Raj has dreamt about colorful ants swarming out of his urethra. Fred is perplexed.

Soon enough, the guru (Marker again, funny again) arrives from the Himalayas, where he's lived in a cave for years, dispensing wisdom to pilgrims. But — horrors! — he also happens to be Caucasian, which Joan deems insufficiently authentic for her purposes (which are what again?). Raj, who speaks not a word of Hindi, is now persuaded he should play the wise man because, well, he's brown.

Lots of prickly ideas are at play here, but Guha's script and Bill English's direction are focused more on making the audience laugh than pointing out the characters' sometimes despicably laughable thinking. If you're seeking nuanced social satire, "Yoga Play" is likely to get you bent out of shape.

Yoga Play, through April 20 at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., SF. Tickets ($25-$85): (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org