This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One of irony's best, most wonderful qualities is that it doesn't take sides. With every passing production of Salt Lake Acting Company's "Saturday's Voyeur," that point seems to underline itself. Again. And again. And again.
Perhaps our greatest local irony is this: Year after year, SLAC's theater franchise of satire and seething rage at all things conservative Utah has become almost an article of faith among Utah gentiles, liberals and garden-variety progressives.
As such, it's dangerously close to sharing at least one quality in common with an LDS temple recommend: Criticize the tradition it embodies, and you risk more than a few glaring looks.
For, truth be told, "Saturday's Voyeur" barely qualifies as a musical in ways we define the genre. Few of its songs propel the plot toward a rousing finale. There is no protagonist hoping against hope for something dearly strived for. Not, at least, in a way that invests the audience in the mystery of human emotions. Nothing it espouses veers anywhere near breaking your heart in that magical way that only the best musicals can.
Instead, playwrights Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins roll out vignette after vignette of tart dialogue, news-cycle zingers, and song-and-dance numbers that let us laugh the laughter of the damned. It's an extended lark. And if you've seen past productions you know and probably love the bill of goods it represents.
For the most part, that's fine. For life in a state locked in a perpetual cycle of conservative one-upmanship, there's a strong case to be made that if "Saturday's Voyeur" didn't already exist, someone would have to invent it. As Holly Fowers bellows at one point in this year's "Voyeur," playing the "Cat Lady" of Yalecrest, "If you'd told me one year ago that I'd be missing [Republican U.S. Sen.] Bob Bennett, I would have laughed in your face!"
Taking the Tea Party phenomenon for its overarching backdrop, "Saturday's Voyeur 2011" trades in its old working model of jabs at Mormondom for a full-on assault on uncompromising conservative ideology as embraced by key members of the Utah Legislature. Here to rescue Cat Lady are the Founding Fathers themselves.
"Those in power will always rewrite history," says Randall Eames, playing Thomas Jefferson. "If they're allowed to get away with it."
Borgenicht and Nevins then write a kind of history all their own. But before the Founders can redeem Cat Lady, they must first surmount the fatigue of being deified through the rose-colored glasses of Rep. Carl Wimmer dubbed here as "Carl Dwimmer" the Herriman Republican and co-founder of the Patrick Henry Caucus out to cleanse the Republican Party of evil moderates.
Along the way we get a United States flag stained by fry sauce, a House Speaker "Becky Blockheart," lots of shots at feral cats and, perhaps best of all, a "Gayle Bazooka" dance number by Steven Fehr, who clearly relishes the floor to the melody of Rick James' "Super Freak."
It's an exercise every bit as partisan as their targets, of course, but far more honest and hilarious. Problem is, Borgenicht and Nevins' seeming zeal to capture every quirk, political flop and outrage within range of last year's political events threatens to weigh the entire enterprise down. The barbs that are lobbed toward Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker a "smugly calm and slim" Democrat while admirable for balance, stand out as add-ons, not integral scenes.
SLAC's Wednesday night preview is bound to become leaner, meaner and less creaky over time. The venerable tradition of this play almost guarantees it. It's funny. It lets you laugh even as you vent outrage. But sometimes it seems that, given enough time in Utah, you can indulge the same sort of exercise on your own time. After all, as even Borgenicht and Nevins would admit, there is no shortage of material to work with.
'Saturday's Voyeur 2011'
P A "Voyeur" with politics, patriotism and its heart in the right place, even if it constitutes an overlong attempt to mine punchlines from liberal outrage.
When • Through Sept. 4; Wednesday to Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 and 7 p.m.
Where • Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City
Info • $39-$54. Call 801-363-SLAC or visit http://www.saltlakeactingcompany.org for more information.
Running time • 2 hours and 50 minutes, including two intermissions.