New York | 1h 30m | Already closed


From 30 critic and 119 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent

About the show

San Francisco Playhouse and 59E59 present a thriller exploring the nebulous world of management brainstorming, and the thorny relationship between big business, morality, and American identity. More…

Aaron Loeb brings a dark comic edge to this psychological suspense thriller, in which a group of corporate consultants work together on a mysterious and ethically ambiguous project. As the lines between right and wrong are blurred, these characters must navigate the cognitive dissonances and moral dilemmas to decide for themselves if everything is as it really seems.

Manhattan With a Twist

"Must-see theater…What we think it’s going to be, a corporate drama, becomes one of the best explorations about humanity and its decisions I’ve ever experienced…The way these actors portray each person is something to behold…But none of that would have worked without Costello putting it all together like a great orchestra master…This smart play which entertains and educates, makes you question yourself and then analyze those around you." Full Review


"A taut, ironic thriller...Loeb’s well-drawn characterizations enhanced with studied distinction by the actors’ portrayals, bring this real-surreal office dynamic to life...'Ideation' is a must-see production, its concept well-thought-out and executed to perfection by the sustained efforts of the cast, creative team and director. The production unfolds seamlessly, step by step, with sardonic humor, suspense, and a realism that the actors vibrate with and make us experience." Full Review

The New York Times

"The sinister tangos with the madcap in 'Ideation,' a comedy that satirizes office politics and skewers groupthink, even as its annihilation scenario comes to seem unsettlingly plausible. Written by Aaron Loeb and directed by Josh Costello, it gradually ramps up the uncertainty and moral horror of its little band of collaborators, played by a first-rate ensemble...In 'Ideation,' Mr. Loeb has devised a psychological game, one that’s both amusing and intriguing to play." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The cleverness of the play lies in its examination of how the characters' well-honed problem-solving skills fail them, leaving them to wrestle with highly unfamiliar moral and ethical issues that lead them down the path to paranoia...What makes it all work so well is the highly polished performances of the cast members and the directing by Josh Costello...A terrific ensemble piece that is a whirlwind of witty dialog, physical comedy, and scary imagery." Full Review


"'Ideation,' a dynamic piece of modern theater, is now onstage. This thought-provoking play features an excellent cast and terrific staging. Metropolitan area audiences will want to see this show. It is a timely, wonderfully crafted play that is both insightful and humorous...Each member of the cast strikes just the right tenor between the serious nature of their characters and their hilarious, unpredictable foibles...It is a show you will be thinking about long after the curtain call." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Both horrifying and amusing...They’re provocative questions, albeit a bit heavy-handed...Not surprisingly, the well-acted, well-written, and well-staged production offers no answers, but asks the audience to think about the role of the individual...'Ideation' is to be credited for not shying away from big issues or big problems. Deeply engaging and unsettling—it is also bitingly funny—Loeb’s third play zeroes in on issues that this year’s Presidential contenders would be wise to address." Full Review

New York Theatre Wire

"Aaron Loeb's engrossing, bizarre, dark play...The ensemble of actors is excellent, utterly believable, they inhabit their souls, in some cases very damaged souls. All of them appear willing to sell out whatever souls they ever had. Director Josh Costello leaves no doubt that the events that transpire could be true...Aaron Loeb establishes perfectly the moral conundrum." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"A frequently hilarious excursion into ever-mounting paranoia…The increasingly paranoiac fun and games are accompanied by crackling dialogue that often shreds the clichés of the business world…Under Josh Costello's spring-loaded direction, a nimble and committed cast makes a possibly contrived situation feel all too real…A tense and funny comedy thriller that accurately mirrors the conspiracy-minded thinking that informs too much of modern life." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Although it’s been called a psychological thriller, Mr. Loeb’s play leans more toward being a frequently funny and decidedly edgy satire of global corporate power, the self-interested rationalization of ethical dilemmas, the paranoia leading to conspiracy theories, and the impossibility of knowing who to trust and how much. ‘Ideation’ creaks a bit here and there but, on the whole, is a fast-paced, original, suspenseful, and intellectually satisfying yet consistently accessible contribution." Full Review

Front Row Center

"If you have a few synapses you’re not using for anything, I suggest you swan over to 59E59 Theaters and put them to good use. Aaron Loeb‘s play 'Ideation' will give them a fabulous workout, as will the cast who dishes up this most excellent presentation...It is a masterful script and a very fine production indeed. THIS is what 'The Crucible' was intended to do. The sacrifice of the few to protect the many is on trial here, and the jury is out." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Acting is excellent across the board...This is a superbly cast production of actors who work with one another like a humming machine...Heat, both sexual and hostile, feels real. Perhaps the highest achievement here is the production’s skilled timing without which we wouldn’t be bound...Aaron Loeb has concocted a psychologically adept scenario, relevant both as metaphor and conceivable eventuality...My only caveat is the ending which, I think, calls for more commitment." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"There are some more than amusing moments in this let-your-imagination-run-wild, humor-filled yet eerie 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." Full Review

Let's Talk Off-Broadway

"'Ideation' is fast-paced, entertaining and witty as it bounces around its profound subject, how do we know anything for sure? How can we trust anybody? The characters reflect stereotypes in a humorous way but are individually drawn and distinct, fast talking but fully motivated...These are smart people who see the humor as well as the invitation to disaster in their preposterous dilemmas, making for an enjoyable and thought-provoking play." Full Review


"Shocking revelations are disclosed with a deadpan tone reminiscent of Harold Pinter’s later allegorical political plays. The dialogue is an often very funny Orwellian distillation of business world jargon. A flaw is that at an hour and forty minutes without an intermission, 'Ideation' gets repetitive and slackens at times. Director Josh Costello’s staging enhances the performances from his cast... Mr. Costello has realized the material with inventive precision." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"What they begin to speculate is the remarkable and powerful story line of Mr. Loeb’s script and the ensemble cast capably brings it to a chilling and disturbing climax. Josh Costello keeps the pace at the frenetic and horrifying level needed and his creative vision never misses the opportunity to turn the audience’s expectations into a delectable chaotic psychological disarray...Loses steam briefly about 80 minutes into the performance...Mr. Loeb might consider making a few judicious cuts." Full Review

What's On Off Broadway

"'Ideation' takes an unsettling project, how to discretely handle mass deaths from a virus, and disassembles it into manageable parts. It begins with finding the gallows humor in the management processes, which ignores the human effects of their work all the time...'Ideation' is crisply directed by Josh Costello and well written by Aaron Loeb. It is altogether a tight show, right up until the end. And then 'Ideation' loses its nerve." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"I give playwright Aaron Loeb high marks for his characters. He manages to create archetypes without making them stereotypes...My big complaint is with the ending. Loeb has set all the dominoes up to knock them down with an ending that comes down on one side or the other, and then he chooses not to take a side…Director Josh Costello has staged a small-cast, talking heads play in a single setting and has done so without boring the audience." Full Review

Ethan Kanfer: New York Theater Reviews

"In Loeb’s mordant take on corporate culture, a process that begins as problem-solving quickly descends into an exercise in collective hysteria. Though not all of 'Ideation' works, its desperate characters are creepily fun to watch...Loeb has a keen ear for the empty jargon and forced chumminess of boardroom life, but the same provocative premise would be better served in a leaner, one act edition. Performance-wise, however, 'Ideation' is solid and imaginative." Full Review

Theater In The Now

"'Ideation' is like the hit sci-fi TV thriller 'Lost." So many unanswered questions when we reach the blackout...The script jumps from absurdist to melodrama to farce with a snap of the finger. Bringing it cohesively together is the job of the director. Josh Costello found a through line but it was bit jagged...A polarizing play in the sense of satisfaction. You may not be thrilled with the outcome or you may find it perfectly accurate to life. Either way, Loeb has forced you to feel something." Full Review


"The actors are competent but hardly memorable. So is Josh Costello's direction...While Loeb's intentions to create an edgy satire that would put some thought provoking ideas on the table is admirable, it falls short of its ambition. The thinly disguised, jumbled ideas don't really do much to fully engage us. In a world of devastating viruses, natural disasters and terrorism, it's hard to find any of this fresh or funny." Full Review

For All Events

for a previous production "I’ve never seen anything like this stage play. Its scope and grandeur is amazing and magnificent. I’m still thinking about it. Once in a decade an audience gets raw challenges. They sure do it here. The director absolutely knows how to create emotion. This cat-and-mouse-bare-knuckle play keeps you on the edge of your seat. IT’S ELECTRIFYING!" Full Review

Stark Insider

for a previous production "Part of the magic of this production is the manner in which Loeb builds tension. There is no music. No special effects. And no dramatic scene changes. Words (and lots of them), the calculation of probabilities using the whiteboard as a sixth actor, and an unsettling 'trust no one' mantra lead our intrepid consultants down an increasingly slippery slope of delusion...It would be hard to imagine this play working in anything, but the most capable hands. Fortunately, this cast is absolutely ste... Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

for a previous production "An excellent 90-minute drama...Josh Costello has assembled five brilliant Bay Area actors to keep the audience on their toes, and they succeed in making this a taut production." Full Review

SF Gate

for a previous production "The devilishly funny and demonically dark comedy about management consultants is as sidesplitting and, if anything, more deeply disturbing than it seemed at first encounter...Director Josh Costello has honed the pacing to a fine edge. And the much elevated design package substantially if subconsciously raises the social, political and ethical stakes." Full Review

SF Examiner

for a previous production "Played out on Alicia Griffiths’ smart, black-and-chrome conference room set, with actors this good, Loeb’s play simply soars, leaving the audience disconcertingly up in the air. Which is definitely the way it is." Full Review

Thought-provoking, Riveting, Intense, Intelligent, Absorbing

See it if You like very clever and fast-paced plays.

Don't see it if I can't think of any negatives....

Absorbing, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if You like smart, intriguing, suspenseful theater!

Don't see it if You don't like straight plays.

Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Great writing, Riveting

See it if you enjoy powerful ensemble acting, great writing, effortless invisible directing, and increasingly high stakes drama.

Don't see it if you prefer lighter, less dramatic fare.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Edgy, Ambitious

See it if you enjoy another powerful thought provoking show

Don't see it if you are squeamish. My partner was very upset re: the possibilities implied.

Clever, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Original

See it if you like well acted shows that make you think. The time flew by. Fascinating premise, well executed.

Don't see it if you don't like good plays!

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy

See it if You like shows that entertain you while making you think.

Don't see it if You don't like provocative subjects or shows that ask you to concentrate on fast-paced dialogue.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy logic puzzles, hypotheticals, and clever writing.

Don't see it if you don't like open endings.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Intelligent, Masterful, Edgy

See it if have ever felt paranoid but knew they were still out to get you! Logical moves suspicion to insanity in 90 intense minutes and laughs too.

Don't see it if you like your theater bland.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if you like a thought provoking, clever play

Don't see it if you can't fit it in

Clever, Ambitious, Funny, Great acting, Edgy

See it if Good cast and interesting subject matter. I was very engaged.

Don't see it if You don't like philosophical inquiries.

Edgy, Unsettling, Uncomfortable to watch, Thought-provoking, Great performances

See it if you don't mind not really knowing what's happening onstage and being left with an uneasy feeling.

Don't see it if you like definite conclusions, because there isn't one here.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Dizzying, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You are familiar with the corporate world and would enjoy seeing it skewered in parody, or if you like thinking through epic conspiracies.

Don't see it if You want your shows to have a satisfying conclusion, instead of a "dun dun dun..." and fade to black.

Thought-provoking, Edgy, Intelligent

See it if you like topical plays that address moral questions, you like language-driven fast-paced one acts, you like to be left thinking

Don't see it if you like complete closure in plays, you don't like workplace dramas, you want light fare

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Funny, Absurd

See it if intelligent, logic oriented morals and ethics

Don't see it if absurdity


See it if you want to get a glimpse of the way corporations do business. How far do employees go to do the bidding of their corporate employers?

Don't see it if you want a tidy ending.

Profound, Confusing, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to be a management consultant, want to laugh a bit at the sometimes absurdity of corporate work life.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with ambiguity or no clear ending

Absorbing, Clever, Quirky

See it if You like theater that gets you to think.

Don't see it if You don't want to think at the theater.

Dizzying, Excruciating, Slow, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if You want to see a bunch of paranoid project managers think out how to do a strange project that could be parallel to a project during WW II.

Don't see it if You want some song and dance show. This play happens all in one room and there was no satisfying ending to the story.

Overrated, Quirky, Entertaining, Repetitive

See it if you love Saturday Night Live. This is essentially an SNL skit -- about management consultants who overthink -- expanded to 90 minutes.

Don't see it if you want drama, or if repeated variations on the same gag aren't your idea of humor.

Intelligent, Overrated, Excruciating, Confusing

See it if you work in consulting or aspiring to do that, want to get a glimpse of how corporations work, like conspiracy theories.

Don't see it if you hate corporate culture, models and enigmas.

Indulgent, Disappointing, Over the top acting, Predictable structure

See it if you don't know anything about business and like a fantasy show.

Don't see it if you like subtle acting. There's a bit too much scenery chewing. Also despite the unusual premiss the show's structure is predictable.

Boring, Long, No character development, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if you want to feel as if you were sitting for ten hours watching a 90 minute play!!! Should have been a brief one-act play.

Don't see it if Just don't see it. This is truly bad theatre: bad acting, bad writing, bad directing.

Slow, Excruciating, Cliched, Banal

See it if waste 1:45 watching "conspiracy theory" deception playout in an executive boardroom. Horrible writing. No character development.

Don't see it if Unless you were a business major who likes watching actors talk in circles, without a conclusion. Sadly, many fake positive reviews posted.

Great writing, Great acting, Hilarious, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy dark thought provoking comedies and satire. Well written and acted works, or you are a genocidal maniac looking for ideas

Don't see it if You are easily offended. Or have no sense of humor.

Absorbing, Clever, Exquisite, Great writing, Great acting

See it if You enjoy puzzles and care about human rights

Don't see it if You hate fun or feel threatened by smart dialogue and brilliant acting

Cast & Creatives (13)