This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
That guttural, aw-shucks laugh. Those white, oh-so wizened sideburns and temples. The treacly, yet chummy way he turns almost any situation into a joke, or brushes it off.
Mitt Romney, this year's platinum-plated presidential candidate, was a foregone conclusion for the subject of this year's "Saturday's Voyeur," subtitled "The Mormon Moment." And this year, with a bounty of campaign sound bites to choose from, Salt Lake Acting Company's annual theater sendup of all things Utah was ripe in choices.
A stageful of 'gotcha!' • Trent Cox, the 22-year-old Weber State University theater student christened to play the role, said his personal favorite is Romney's response to the charge that he bullied a student, presumed to be gay, at his elite Michigan prep school.
"Of course I don't remember any of it, and if I offended anyone, I'm sorry," Romney said, in various iterations, during the campaign cycle of early May.
The "Mittfaced" honesty of those words rolls off Cox's tongue. "He's the kind of guy who would snap a towel at you in the locker room, then say, 'Just kiddin'. Gotcha!' " Cox said.
In many ways, that describes the entirety of the whole "Saturday's Voyeur" enterprise, which serves as a catalogue of "gotcha!" moments aimed at Utah political and cultural life, including, of course, a focus on Mormon institutions. It's also one of the few theater productions in Utah that live beyond the stage, with fans marking their calendars and planning picnic baskets for cabaret seating, including preshow meetups in SLAC's Green Room, where lubrication is served.
"Moving from a blue state to a blue state to a red state had ben a jarring experience, and my new neighbors only drank root beer. What was I going to do?" patron Sarah Wright wrote in despairing words for the theater company's website. "Once I saw the play, once was not enough I saw 'Voyeur' three times."
Anchored in headlines and research • Salt Lake Acting Company's annual theater sendup on all things Utah may play fast and loose with its humor. Last year's Tea Party-centered production, for example, mixed Paul Revere with Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen.
Each annual edition is anchored in current events and field research. Before finishing the script for this year's installment, dubbed "The Mormon Moment," scriptwriters Allen Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht dined in the cafeteria hall inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' office building. Meanwhile, director Cynthia Fleming and set designer Keven Myhre toured the massive building that towers above the Salt Lake City skyline.
"You're greeted by these lovely old women who all speak so nice and softly," Fleming said.
From ground floor to topmost observation deck, Fleming and Myhre scaled it all. Except, that is, the building's basement.
That, you may have already guessed, was left to SLAC's collective and satiric imagination. "Subfloor Six" is where gay Mormons, Mormon Democrats and otherwise renegade elements of the faith are sent for "Mormon rehab."
The vision of the 'Mormon Moment' • Similar to last year's production, which transpired in the head, or dream world, of "Huntsman Republican" Cat Lady of Salt Lake City's Yalecrest district, this year's opens with the fever dream of Bud "Moroni" Rasmussen. He can't recover from the traumatic sight of Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration.
As his vision progresses through the inner workings of the Church Office Building, the audience is treated to scenes and songs agog with the nation's "Mormon Moment" as it ascends toward Romney's presidential aspirations.
Here we learn how Romney's tithing makes the world go 'round, what happens to Mormon girls who kiss girls, and about the tricky line walked by Mormon Democrats. Before the wayward are sent below, they're kept in line by Elder Neldon Marriott, played by Justin Ivie. Backing him up are the "Skittle Girls," or church-office worker bees who turn into mean girls when others stray.
Romney's stealth way with offshore accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands gets comic play in dialogue and song, with "Tithing" sung to the tune of "Cabaret's" "Money."
"You can take it on the chin/tie your dog and begin/to recover in La Jolla on my yacht," Cox sings.
Mocking forced conformity • Six alums anchor this year's cast, including Kelsie Jepsen, who plays "Mormella," after last year's rousing version of Rep. Dimmer, a takeoff on Utah Rep. Carl Wimmer.
The rest of cast is notable for its equal number of six fresh faces, including Emilie Starr, who plays one of the "Skittle Girls." Starr is one of the few tithe-paying, practicing Mormons to grace the "Voyeur" cast.
With 10 percent of her SLAC paycheck for this year's production going to the LDS Church, Starr said she feels nothing like the lion in the proverbial den. "I don't think you can love anything truly without making fun of it," Starr said. "Mormons have already learned to make fun of themselves with films like 'The Singles Ward.' ['Voyeur'] is making fun of elements in the church that I disagree with."
With more than 300 LDS Church members breaking the ice after marching in this month's Utah Pride Day Celebrations, this year's "Voyeur" finds itself in the odd position of playing a bit of catch-up.
"It doesn't mock Mormons as bad people," Ivie explains. "It roundly mocks the idea that all Mormons must be this way, or one single way, through forced conformity."
'Saturday's Voyeur' 2012: 'The Mormon Moment'
When • June 27-Sept. 2; Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 6 p.m.
Where • Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City
Info • $35-$55. Call 801-363-SLAC or visit http://www.saltlakeactingcompany.org for more information.