Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ideation ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

It's a little long and talky. It's also brilliant. Aaron Loeb's "Ideation," which is the first play to make it out of San Francisco Playhouse''s Sandbox Series and onto the main stage, takes us inside the creepiest corporate boardroom ever. Five participants in a project planning session start out with self-satisfied smurks and end up in terror, concerned their own lives are in imminent danger.

Mark Anderson Phillips has never been better. As Brock, the team leader, he spouts euphemisms like "liquidation," "transport," "cremation" and "mass graves," which give us a pretty good idea this is no everyday assignment. On the white board he writes "N," which refers to the 'N-Word' which is never allowed to be mentioned. What a surprise when we figure out to what this actually refers to.

Carrie Paff (Hannah) is perfect as the one woman on the team, sent by Corporate HQ to either spy on or assist in this meeting. Jason Kapoor plays the younger Sandeep, whose questions about the team's mysterious assignment only underline his not-so-secret relationship with Hannah.

Michael Ray Wisely is the older Ted who would love to wrap things up and get to his daughter's soccer game, while Ben Euphrat's Scooter starts out as a clueless beneficiary of company nepotism but winds up with more to do than bring Hannah coffee.

Bill English's set design team outdoes itself. The curved lines of stage and furniture and deco-like overhang help us understand nothing is on the straight-and-narrow here, as does the title of the show, another deliciously obfuscating dish of corpo-speak.

RATINGS:  ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Ideation" Four Stars. It makes you feel nervous as well as creepy, but you hang on the front of your seat from opening to curtain. It's hard not to feel excited about a World Premiere of a show this well written and acted.
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post Street, San Francisco
 (2d floor Kensington Park Hotel)
Through November 8

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