It's been a little over a year since the San Francisco Playhouse moved one block down to its swanky and spacious new digs at the erstwhile Post Street Theatre. Since the new digs didn't come with a second stage, a question arose during the move: What would become of the Sandbox Series, the company's program of small-scale world premieres? Since the move, those plays (two per season) have been staged in several different locations: one show was at SF Playhouse's former second stage on Sutter Street where they'd been performed previously (now the Un-Scripted Theater) and the next was at the ACT Costume Shop. Now the company visits its own former main stage, the new home of Tides Theatre, for its latest Sandbox world premiere, Ideation.
The show is a callback to Playhouse history in at least one other way as well. It's the theater's third premiere by Bay Area playwright Aaron Loeb, after the hit productions of First Person Shooter and Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party.
"Ideation" is just a fancy word for idea generation, a particularly organized method of brainstorming. In the play, a team of management consultants is tasked with coming up with a strategy for a project that's at best highly morally questionable and possibly monstrous. At first they seem amusingly oblivious to the horrific implications of what they're talking about, even blithely cracking jokes about it. But as they methodically work through how the project would work and who exactly would need to know about it, they realize how little they know about what they're working on.
Carrie Paff, Mark Anderson Phillips and Michael Ray Wisely in Ideation
In another world, Ideation might be a suspense thriller. You have the frequently shaken sense of how the world works, the growing paranoia and the ever-shifting sense of who might be in on it, if there even is an "it" to be in on. But as creepy as it is, it's also hilarious, especially in director Josh Costello's sharp staging with a stellar cast.