DC Metro Theater Arts Review: YOGA PLAY

YOGA PLAY by Dipika Guha. Photo: Cameron Whitman
The genuinely funny cast balances the play’s humor with emotional depth

“What is yoga?” Dipika Guha’s Yoga Play, now at Keegan through April 23, attempts to answer this recurring question through a heady mix of corporate satire, farce, and yogic teachings, complete with a love story and comeback victory.

Director Susan Marie Rhea (Keegan’s artistic director) and her cast keep the play running at an impressive clip, balancing the play’s physical humor with several delicate moments of authentic emotional depth.

The entire cast is genuinely funny, but no one rests on their comedic laurels. Katie McManus brings to Joan a white-knuckle determination to succeed, showing glimpses of the smart businesswoman’s fear of being labeled a failure because the bar is set higher for her than for her male colleagues. Vinay Sanapala and Jacob Yeh are particularly winning as business besties, humanizing what might have otherwise been two-note characters. Their conversations over liquid lunches are respites from the madcap plot and bring a more global perspective to notions of justice, family, labor, and belonging. Carianmax Benitez shows her versatility in a trio of characters, and longtime Keegan staple Michael Innocenti brings a gravity to the enigmatic Bernard Brown that the play deliciously questions over and over.

Matthew J. Keenan’s minimalist, flexible set, framed in warm wooden beams, gives the production’s zaniness ample running room. Projection designer Jeremy Bennett, alongside associate designer Zavier Augustus Lee Taylor, paints the set’s white walls with a striking series of sun-drenched yoga commercials, Google searches, and floating fruits. Dan Deiter’s playful sound design runs the gamut from generic new-wave music to a Hindi-laden version of Lorde’s song “Royals,” a fitting selection for the play’s mashup of Eastern and Western cultures.

Though Yoga Play doesn’t resolve all its own questions, it shows that answers often come more readily in stillness than in chaos, in listening than talking, in being than in doing.  The play, which began with a torrent of words, ends in a needed breath.