Good morning, America. It's Chennai calling.

Anupama Chandrasekhar takes us inside the surreal pressure cooker of an Indian call center in "Disconnect." This is a windowless realm of smiley face stickers, mindless corporate slogans and painted-on smiles where employees harass marks who live half a world away. Amped on Red Bull and desperation, the debt collectors pursue their quarry while the rest of their country sleeps.

Tautly directed by Rick Lombardo in its West Coast premiere at San Jose Rep, "Disconnect" may not be off-the-hook funny or deeply moving, but it's still a sharply-observed look at the dark side of global capitalism. Imagine "The Office" meets "Slumdog Millionaire."

Disconnect 4: (l to r) Call center employees Ross (Imran Sheikh) and Vidya (Sharone Sayegh) take a break to surf the web in San Jose Repís West Coast
Disconnect 4: (l to r) Call center employees Ross (Imran Sheikh) and Vidya (Sharone Sayegh) take a break to surf the web in San Jose Repís West Coast premiere of Disconnect. Photo by Kevin Berne ( Kevin Berne )

If that sounds a bit scattershot, that's because it is. While much of the 100-minute piece is smart and relevant, the playwright has not yet found a way to connect the play's brash sense of the ironic with its poignant ending, and much of the piece feels underwritten. Still "Disconnect" has its finger on the pulse of the global economy, and it's hard to resist its hot-button subject matter.

This is a look at the life of an Indian call center, where starving young Indians harass debt-ridden Americans who can't pay off their credit card, the sarcastically-named True Blue. Not only has the credit card company outsourced this sensitive line of work to India, but if the Indian crew can't make its numbers, they too may lose the account, this time to the cheaper Filipino market.

The pressure is on. If middle-aged supervisor Avinash (Rajesh Bose) can't get his employees to get on the leader board, he's out. Demoted from the prestigious New York account to the lowly Chicago floor, Avinash is decent and sincere. In other words, he's one step away from obsolescence.

That's hunky dory with Roshan (a charismatic Imran Sheikh) who fancies himself as American as any of his marks. He calls himself Ross, has perfected his Midwestern drawl and honed his understanding of Chicago geography to become top dog. He is far better at clawing back cash from deadbeats than Vidya (Sharone Sayegh), who uses the name Vicky, and Giri (Ray Singh), alias Gary, his colleagues on the dreaded night shift. They must work while most of India sleeps, and they lose touch with family and friends because of the time difference.

They put their lives on hold, 10 hours a day. Breaks are short. Quotas are high. Yoon Bae's slick, antiseptic set nails the absurd nature of this workplace, where nothing matters but the numbers.

Of course quality of life issues are not paramount in a country where starvation is commonplace. These workers will sacrifice everything for even an ephemeral shot at a middle-class life. Sure it's a high-tech sweatshop, but it beats the gutter hands down.

As Chandrasekhar wryly suggests, not everyone can be an engineering Jedi or a software ninja, which means there's no way out of the Third World. For the record, the playwright's denunciation of this brutal economy is sometimes too blunt when a little more nuance would be more effective.

She touches on a roster of provocative subjects, from the repression of women in India to the obsession with fair skin, but she never explores any of these themes fully. Instead, the rough and ready narrative pushes toward a melodramatic ending it can't quite carry. She also has characters do things that seem unmotivated (although the actions are sometimes brightly funny) which undercuts our ability to believe that the call center employees are any more real than their marks.

Lastly, it's hard to shake the impression that there is never anyone on the other end of the line. When Roshan is courting a debt-ridden woman named Sarah or when Vidya is badgering a man to the end of his rope, there's not enough weight given to the interaction to make the American customers seem like they exist.

Some of the fault may lie in the play's breakneck speed. Chaotic lines of overlapping dialogue and the percussive beat of hung-up calls give "Disconnect" a fast and furious pace that befits its portrayal of a 24/7 economy. But that frenzy also prevents the engaging cast from carving out enough moments of true meaning amid the din.

Still, Bose invests the antiquated Avinash with a quiet dignity. Sheikh captures Ross's love of illusion, his need to escape the world outside his cubicle. But there's not enough flesh and blood to these characters to make us care what happens to their American dreams.

Contact Karen D'Souza at 408-271-3772. Read her at www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza, follow her at Twitter.com/KarenDSouza4 and like her at Facebook.com/Dsouzatheaterpage.

'DISCONNECT'

By Anupama Chandrasekhar

Through: April 14
Where: San Jose Rep, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes (no intermission)
Tickets: $10-$74. 408-367-7255, www.sjrep.com