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Theatre Review: Ideation

Aaron Loeb /Capital Stage

Aaron Loeb /Capital Stage

Secrecy breeds fear – especially when you are planning something lethal, and you don’t really know who has hired you, or why. That’s the underlying premise in this paranoid contemporary comedy at Sacramento's Capital Stage.

As this play begins, several consultants gather in a conference room, working on a hush-hush industrial project, with international implications.

(Russell) “How would you do it… pass on the liability?”

(Jason) “Pretty obvious, isn’t it? You privatize the port, long term lease pays off the debt. Probably unload it to the Chinese…”


These guys are confident, can-do types. But the tension rises as they discuss the logistics of the liquidation chamber at the center of their scheme.

(Peter) The chamber is flooded with some kind of sleep agent. After that, it’s filled with highly concentrated hydrofluoric acid. It chelates with calcium, so it actually breaks down some, or all of the bone.”

It’s efficient, to be sure! But what about the implications?

(Carrie)“Seriously, it’s Jeffrey Dahmer on a national scale!”

(Peter) “Well, guys, come on. Don’t try to make me feel guilty or something for having thought of it.”

But they do worry, and soon fear takes hold, as the consultants wonder whether they themselves are mere pawns in vast, shadowy plan. And they are working on a 90 minute deadline – the heat is on, and they’re sweating. The consultants become increasingly desperately try to come up with something – anything – they can propose to their mysterious client.

This production is cleverly executed. Director Mike Stevenson builds up a tense, relentless pace. And the accomplished cast of five makes moral darkness visible onstage.  Yes, this show is structured as a comedy – and there are plenty of lines that make you laugh. But it’s often a matter of gallows humor, leading to a potential outcome that could be too ghastly to contemplate.

"Ideation" continues at Capital Stage through February 22nd.


Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio 

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