Corporate culture is a hot topic among business executives these days, as part of a continuing effort for greater cohesiveness, creativity, and adaptability, as well as more earnings per share for those who own and operate these organizations.
In the regional premiere of Aaron Loeb's Ideation, we get an intimate, site-specific look—a conference room in the Boulder Chamber of Commerce building—at the machinations of a group of top-level strategists as they brainstorm under a 90-minute deadline, to come up with a proposal for a morally vexing project.
|(L to R) Hossein Forouzandeh as Sandeep, Jim Walker as Ted,|
Karen Lamoureaux as Hannah, Brian Shea as Brock, and Luke Sorge as Scooter
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Hannah (Karen Lamoureaux) is on a short lease from the boss, JD (the voice of Jim Hunt), who presses her for results ASAP. Her co-workers are high-powered and volatile: Brock (Brian Shea), a snooty, vituperative, but laser-sharp Harvard MBA; Ted (Jim Walker), a highly analytical operations overseer and, generally, the group's whiteboard navigator; and Sandeep (Hossein Forouzandeh), a young top-flight engineer, whose international point-of-view runs counter to the narrow politics of the Americans. The wildcard is Scooter (Luke Sorge), JD's son, an MBA candidate at the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley), who is interning and charged with setting up the conference room, observing the meeting, and taking notes.
In short order, we realize that the project which Loeb puts before the group is a updated version of Hitler's "Final Solution," based on a "theoretical" scenario of (take your pick): biological warfare or naturally occuring, but "somehow" genetically modified, viral pandemics. In some ways, the plot is related to Margaret Atwood's novel, Oryx and Crake (2003), in which Big Pharma creates diseases for which they have expensive remedies ready to market, until the experiment gets out of hand.
Loeb wrote the story after working with a management consulting firm; he was fascinated by their problem-solving methodology. While there are a couple of deductions made by the group that went by too fast for us to consider the logic of their steps, the rest of the analysis was spot on, which leads us to ponder the options along with the team. Considering the nature of the problem—which boils down to a massive depopulation event—Loeb's disarming of our emotional resistance, along with the effects of visceral performances at close range, is impressive.
Lamoureaux weaves together Hannah's complex emotional landscape, from cool, calm, and collected project manager, to hot and bothered lover; Shea's intensity as Brock keeps the adrenaline level at a high pitch, baiting everyone else to challenge him; Walker's Ted is a paragon of focus and facilitation, repeatedly drawing the team back to the issues at hand; and, as the youngest member of the team and the only non-American, Forouzandeh's Sandeep provides the circumspection, perspective, and unpredictability that leads to the team getting outside the box. Sorge's eccentric mix of entitlement and insinuation brings Scooter full circle, from gofer to deus ex machina, sending the team into another level of suspicion altogether.
Above and beyond the obvious comparisons to the logistics of Nazi concentration camps, the project presented to this group of consultants raises a number of questions and comparisons to recent events, as well as long-held policies of eugenics and de-population by certain sectors of those at the top of the power pyramid. While there will be those who fall back on the use of ad hominem and appeals to emotion (and therefore logical fallacy) by branding such notions as "conspiracy theory" to dispense with Loeb's speculations, the facts argue otherwise.
Thus, we are most appreciative of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company producing director Stephen Weitz' choice in bringing this script and subject matter to the stage. Taken as a whole, it's rare to see work in the Denver region or elsewhere that gets outside the box—of the everyday political and economic beliefs and platitudes promulgated in the mass media—and directly challenge the objectives of those who pull the strings on everyday events. As the company's dramaturg Heather Beasley notes in this production's program, there have been only a handful of plays written in English that address corporate corruption, and only a couple of these have been produced in these parts by major theatre companies. None of these plays directly or indirectly address corporate control over the state or fraud as the corporate business model; however, the nature of the discussion that Loeb has brought to bear is a good start.
Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's regional premiere of Aaron Loeb's Ideation runs through March 20th. For tickets: online at betc.org, or call 800-838-3006.