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Theater review: Saturday’s Voyeur at Salt Lake Acting Company

by on July 8, 2012
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The treat of seeing Saturday’s Voyeur at the Salt Lake Acting company each summer is learning what cultural fumbles and foibles playwrights Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins seize on to populate the annual production with characters and storylines and songs, and how they twist those events into a trenchant commentary on our community.

In 2012, the plot of Saturday’s Voyeur doesn’t have quite the same “ripped from the headlines” feel as some past editions, but their satirical targets are just as worthy of the mocking they take at the hands (and voices) of an overwhelmingly excellent cast of performers.

This year’s version takes on bigger issues than the day-to-day political buffoonery that happens at the Legislature or the Salt Lake City Council. The roles of women, gays and Democrats within the Mormon Church during this Mitt Romney-driven “Mormon Moment” are the focus of the action, providing plenty of humor as well as some serious social critiques.

The majority of the action takes place in the Church Office Building, where sexual politics–as well as presidential politics–rule the lives of “undercover” lefties like Nephi Jensen (Austin Archer), Mormella (Kelsie Jepsen), Brother Fey (Trent Cox) and MoHanna (Kalyn West). As their political proclivities and sexual identities are uncovered by the reactionary right-wing managers of the COB, they’re systematically banished to “Sub-Level 6″ of the building, where they find a thriving underground of good Mormons who also happen to be politically progressive.

Given the hoopla around this year’s presidential election, I expected a heavy dose of Mitt Romney, and while he is present and accounted for (courtesy of Cox, pulling double-duty), the Romney character (described as “a bully, and kind of a creep”) is merely a figurehead of the patriarchal, financially minded Mormon men in the story, especially the comically obnoxious Elder Marriott (Justin Ivie). And Utah’s most relentlessly conservative activist, Gayle Ruzicka, is back in the cartoonish “Godzicka” form of actor Stephen Fehr; I don’t know that she deserved the amount of attention paid by the playwrights, but Fehr is so fun to watch inhabit the little lady that I’m sure it’s hard to resist giving him plenty of scenes to chew through.

Proxy baptisms, the “family-friendly” rules of the new City Creek mall and the Tea Party’s hold over the GOP (“Tea parties are for little girls with imaginary friends”) are all targeted by Borgenicht and Nevins to fine effect. The cast is a blast; Alexis Bague, Jacob Johnson and Fehr are all familiar favorites, while newbies like West (in a follow-up to her excellent performance as Sally Hemmings in Plan-B’s The Third Crossing) and Lauren Noll (Hester in Plan-B’s The Scarlet Letter) as one of the Skittle Sisters who go from BYU/LDS Business College/Eaglet interns to converted Democrats) fit in nicely with the Saturday’s Voyeur veterans. Jepsen, so memorable as a version of Carl Wimmer last year, is great as Mormella–here’s hoping she stays a fixture of the production for years to come.

There are some weak spots, to be sure. The end, designed to be uplifting, falls a little flat as the cast gathers to sing “Be Free.” The story linking the production numbers isn’t as strong as recent years–perhaps Utah was just a little less crazy culturally and politically this year, leaving Borgenicht and Nevins grasping for script fodder. The opening of City Creek was one of the few hot-button local issues to make its way into the script, but it felt a bit haphazardly jammed in to the story of the COB employees.

Even with its lesser moments, though, Saturday’s Voyeur remains a liberal touchstone for Salt Lake City residents, and the matinee audience I joined was laughing and clapping throughout the show, reveling in the sense of being part of the “other” SLC–something people have doing through Voyeur for decades now.

Saturday’s Voyeur runs at Salt Lake Acting Company through Sept. 2. Visit the SLAC Website for showtimes and ticket info.

2 Comments
  1. Jake Starkey permalink

    Lots of fun, an offer or a conciliatory ending, excellent performers, and worth one’s time whether reverent or irreverent or indifferent to the cultural and political wars involving the church.

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  1. Mitt-Bot, Godzicka, gays and bouncing Buddhas—it’s “Voyeur” time « SLCene

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