Yoga Play parodies the commercialization of yoga

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Yoga Play | Gateway Theatre | February 7 – 16, 2019

Playwright Dipika Guha’s Canadian debut, Yoga Play, takes aim at corporate culture, the false authenticity of the yoga lifestyle, and cultural appropriation. The themes and comedic material are all stacked in favour a great play, but the narrative remains on the surface; instead of delving deeply into the issues this production takes a more slapstick approach that didn’t resonate with me.

Joan (Lois Anderson) has recently taken over giant yoga apparel company Jojomon and it so stressed out she can barely breathe at times. Raj (Chirag Naik) and Fred (Derek Chan) are her over-eager staff who are constantly vying for a promotion and trying to impress her. The company’s latest product is a yoga pant made of “Joyon,” a fabric that slowly releases organic lavender scent. With a founder resistant to expanding their lines to size 12 and a recent scandal involving their factory in Bangladesh, Joan must think fast to save the company’s reputation.  

As the play pokes fun at the false authenticity of the yoga lifestyle, talking about “celebration kombuchas” and regularly breathing together in the office, there are some laugh-out-loud lines. But then things take a strange turn and Raj is tasked with finding an Indian guru to become their new brand ambassador. It turns out that Guruji, a guru they manage to bring over from a cave in India, is white. Raj is forced to become the new face of the brand while appropriating his own cultural heritage that he knows nothing about.   

In order to take on his role as “Guru Raj,” he meets with yoga instructor Romola (Christine Quintana) and there is a cringe-inducing scene where she is trying to explain yoga poses to him by speaking very loudly as if this will help him understand English, and Fred translates into made-up Hindi. There was something about this scene that just didn’t sit well.

The surface-level plot never allows for us to truly care about these characters, but the ending finally leaves us with something to think about as Raj ends up having a heart-to-heart with Guruji.   

The content is familiar and the paradox of cultural enlightenment and commercialization rings true, but overall Yoga Play could delve deeper to leave a more meaningful impact.

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