By Sandi Durell
This slickly written dark comedy, by Aaron Loeb, hails from the San Francisco Playhouse. If you want to witness group paranoia at its ultimate, Ideation will give you the best inside view. When a team of management consultants returns from Crete to report back to the team’s head honcho Hannah (the very in-charge Carrie Paff), they are almost foaming at the mouth with excitement about the deal they’ve struck with a new client.
As the conversation unfolds and we learn more, Brock (Mark Anderson Phillips), a type-A personality who mouths off at rapid pace, is calling out the recent engineer grad, the intern Scooter (Ben Euphrat) for overstepping his boundaries. Once he enlists the aide of Hannah, Scooter is summarily dismissed and the meeting begins.
Ted (Michael Ray Wisely), a more grounded family type, takes up the role of recording the concepts thrown back and forth to come up with a plan of action to be presented to the CEO within a short time, as Sandeep (Jason Kappor) the team’s engineer (who is also having an affair with the married Hannah) together with Brock, Ted and Hannah throw out ideas for their presentation.
The new client has given them the task of creating a method by which groups of people will be separated – those who may have contracted a deadly virus, from the healthy ones, and it is the team’s job to find a way to dispose of the bodies; an eventual strategy should a disaster befall in order to save mankind from extinction. It’s pretty heady as they ideate the variables in detail: cremation facilities, mass graves, buried at sea, containers thrown into the sea . . . and on and on. Although they express their discomfort about the project, they attempt to stay focused, not get involved in the morality of it, and treat it as they would any other consulting job.
But as they speculate and come up with more ideas, they think they may have become part of a conspiracy and begin to lose control. Sandeep becomes more critical raising issues that engage the team’s thought process on a different level stating “When truth is pointed out, Americans call it science fiction.” When he leaves the over-heated discussion to cool off, and doesn’t return, the others run amok in their suspicions and outrageous possibilities abound. They argue, they fight accusing one another and turn the room upside down looking for recording bugs. Even the always level-headed Hannah thinks they may be under surveillance. It’s as if they’ve all gone completely delusional.
Suddenly Scooter returns and raises the thought that this all might be a Loyalty Test created by the CEO. With Sandeep gone, they latch on to Scooter to help design a quick plan to present to the CEO (whom they also begin to suspect) and who is about to call any moment. What will Hannah say to him and how will she now handle her boss under these new circumstances?
There are some more than amusing moments in this let-your- imagination-run-wild humor-filled, yet erie, play that clearly shows what happens when suspicion and distrust become the order of the day. The talented, paranoid ensemble is cleverly directed by Josh Costello. Aaron Loeb certainly has ideated a weirdly wonderful script that will leave you scratching your head as you leave the 59e59 Theaters.
Ideation – www.59e59.org 212 279-4200 thru April 17 Run Time: 90 minutes
Photos: Carol Rosegg