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At Keegan Theatre, satirical ‘Yoga Play’ strikes a warrior pose

From left: Jacob Yeh as Fred, Katie McManus as Joan and Vinay Sanapala as Raj in Keegan Theatre's “Yoga Play,” running through April 23. (Cameron Whitman/Keegan Theatre)
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A photo caption in an earlier version of this story misidentified actors Jacob Yeh and Vinay Sanapala. This version has been corrected.

Jojomon CEO Joan is in a tight spot — and we’re not talking about the awkward position she has to assume when colleagues at her company, a yoga-apparel powerhouse, insist on holding hands for mindful-breathing sessions.

The predicament is a looming corporate scandal that could permanently damage the Jojomon brand, just as Joan is getting her career back on track after a flameout at a previous company. No wonder the stress makes her answer each phone call with an exasperated bark.

Radiating authority and callous, blinkered ambition, tempered by moments of vulnerability, Katie McManus’s Joan is a highlight of the Keegan Theatre’s funny “Yoga Play.” Playwright Dipika Guha has written a zinging satire not just of the yoga-consumerism industrial complex, but also of the global economy’s worship of branding. And, with help from creditable supporting performances and polished design, director Susan Marie Rhea’s brisk staging showcases the script’s pointed humor.

True, certain plot twists in “Yoga Play” feel as strained as a four-sizes-too-small sweat-wicking waistband. And there’s a too-concerted feel to the way the comedy periodically fills out each character’s anxieties and backstory. But it’s hard to resist Guha’s gleeful skewering of the athleisurewear-meets-enlightenment mind-set, as when Joan talks up Jojomon’s “concept fabric,” Joyon, which is infused with a slow-release organic lavender fragrance and “inspired by best-selling author Marie Kondo’s ‘if it sparks joy’ motif.”

When a journalist uncovers shocking details about the Joyon supply chain, Joan conceives an audacious crisis-management scheme, only to see it nearly undermined by an outsider (the excellent Michael Innocenti). Jojomon’s CFO, Raj (Vinay Sanapala, exuding the right good-natured haplessness), and marketing whiz, Fred (Jacob Yeh), step in reluctantly to help. So does a local yoga instructor (Carianmax Benitez) who is so cranky she shouts “namaste” like a curse.

The ensuing complications verge on screwball comedy, but along the way the Calcutta-born Guha also briefly explores, in a more serious vein, Raj’s hesitant relationship to his own heritage as a South Asian American. It’s not the only poignant touch in the play: Despite Joan’s corner-office arrogance and preposterous “aha” moments, we understand, and occasionally feel, what it has cost her to rise in a male-dominated business world.

Designer Jeremy Bennett’s pitch-perfect projections — such as gauzy footage of yoga on a mountaintop — drive home the idea of Jojomon as a company manipulating consumers’ desires and fears. (Zavier Augustus Lee Taylor is associate projections designer.) And Matthew J. Keenan’s sleek, spare office set conveys just the right trendy corporate affluence. No question: This is a place where you might interrupt an earnings call to sit in the lotus position and, mindfully, breathe.

Yoga Play by Dipika Guha. Directed by Susan Marie Rhea; assistant director/ costume designer, Shadia Hafiz; lighting design, Alberto Segarra; sound, Dan Deiter; properties, Cindy Landrum Jacobs; technical director, Josh Sticklin. With Timothy H. Lynch. About two hours. $45-$55. Through April 23 at Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. keegantheatre.com.

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