A gripping, satirical and humorous Ideation at SF Playhouse
IDEATION: By Aaron Loeb. Directed by Josh Costello. San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street, San Francisco (2nd Floor of Kensington Park Hotel, b/n Powell & Mason). 415-677-9596, or www.sfplayhouse.org
A gripping, satirical and humorous Ideation at SF Playhouse. Rating:
Author Aaron Loeb honed his playwriting skills at Playground with 10 minute scripts that earned him seven “Emerging Playwright Awards” before gaining recognition for his edgy full length play First Person Shooter. It received an action packed production in 2007 at the former intimate SF Playhouse venue (99 seats) under Jon Tracy’s signature directorial style. This was followed in 2009 by Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Party that went on to win prizes at the Off Broadway Fringe. Ideation was first staged at the San Francisco Playhouse Sandbox and won the 2014 Glickman Playwriting as the best new play produced in the Bay area.
Because of the critical acclaim of that production, SF Playhouse elected to start its 2014-15 12th season with the Sandbox cast and director intact. Not having seen that staging this review is based on the superb acting, directing and spectacular staging that received a standing ovation on opening night. As with most of Loeb’s plays there is an edgy atmosphere with sufficient humor to break up the tension leaving the audience enough leeway to make their own decision about the full meaning of the dialog?
Corporate executive Hannah (Carrie Paff), has been placed in charge of a three man consultant team to brain-storm (ideate) about a shadowy project that apparently requires the secret mass movement of dead bodies. They have a finite amount of time to prepare a video presentation to a shadowy unseen CEO. The brash consultants charge into the conference room with bravado galore. There is vociferous egocentric astute Brock (Mark Anderson Phillips) and the older no nonsense pragmatist Ted (Michael Ray Wisely) who is dogmatic in his approach to the solution. The third member is an Indian engineer Sandeep (Jason Kapoor) who is essential to any solution since he has designed a crematorium that may or may not be needed. The final character is young ineffectual Scooter (Ben Euphart) a son of an influential Board member who has been fostered on Hannah as an assistant.
Scooter is summarily ejected from the proceedings and the trio begins their frantic plans using the huge white board to outline their ideas. As the ideation progresses each universal solution is questioned and reformatted. With each shift of suggestions disagreement and paranoia inevitably divides the trio. The question arises on who knows the most about this top secret project, and why is it necessary? A further hitch is Hannah’s not so secret affair with Sandeep who becomes the one to question the morality of it all. Does a secret virus exist? Is there to be genocide? How does the Parent Corporation benefit?
Carrie Paff has the most difficult role to create beginning as a believable female executive who has broken the glass ceiling set for women in the corporate world then switching to a needy lover before displaying intense insecurity talking to the unseen and dictatorial CEO. She does not miss a beat. Mark Anderson Phillips is always a joy to watch as Brock’s exterior intellectual bravado breaks down into insecure physicality. Michael Ray Wisely as the stolid Ted who allows his no-nonsense exterior veneer to crack ending in physical contact with Brock is perfect in the role. Jason Kapoor as Sandeep exudes powerful insecurity with his silence that becomes the plays conscience. And then there is Ben Euphart who holds his own against the powerful acting of his cast members.
Josh Costello’s perfect direction is enhanced by the fantastic white board-room set created by Bill English that adds to meaning of corporate luxury. This is a should see production since this well written play might suggestion that video game designer Aaron Loeb is almost ready to be able to give up his daytime job. Running time is a taut 90 minutes without intermission.
CAST: Ben Euphrat as Scooter; Jason Kapoor as Sandeep; Carrie Paff as Hannah; Mark Anderson Phillips as Brock; Michael Ray Wisely as Ted; L. Britt Ervin as J.D. (voiceover)
ARTISTIC CREW: Set Design, Bill English; Costume Designer, Abra Berman; Stage Manager, Maggie Koch; Lighting Design, Mark Hueske; Sound Design, Zaque Eyn; Props Artisan, Jacquelyn Scott; Casting Director, Lauren English ;Production Manager, Tatjana Genser
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com.