Review: SLAC’s ‘Saturday’s Voyeur’ is sassy, smart, sexy

The cast of "Saturday's Voyeur 2019." Photo Courtesy: dav.d daniels/ dav.d photography

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Aug. 13, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — It’s hard to believe this is the 41st year of “Saturday’s Voyeur” at Salt Lake Acting Company.

“Voyeur,” for those who are unfamiliar, is SLAC’s parody of local and national politics, culture and religion, written fresh every year by Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins. The original “Voyeur” was conceived in 1978 by Borgenicht and Michael Buttars and was structured like a Mormon Roadshow. The title, of course, is a play on “Saturday’s Warrior,” a musical written by Douglas Stewart and Lex de Azevedo, most recently made into a movie in 2016.

I was curious this year how “Voyeur” would incorporate President Donald Trump’s shenanigans, which most of the time are decidedly unfunny. However, the show, directed and choreographed by Cynthia Fleming, assisted by William Richardson, managed to ride a fine line between comedy while at the same time hitting home the seriousness of what’s going on in our country at this time and the necessity of voting.

To me, “Voyeur” works best when it’s more of a variety show than an attempt at a continuous narrative, and that’s just what this year’s edition is. It’s set during the 2018-2019 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the outset, choir members learn that the term “Mormon” is no longer acceptable, and the church should be referred to in every instance as, yes, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All those words. Mitt Romney (or in this case Mitt Rominey) makes an appearance and we are treated to Robert Scott Smith’s hilarious and oddly uncanny depiction of the politician. Smith has an unsettling ability to really resemble whatever real-life person he’s depicting, and I can tell you, the sign of “Rominey” gallivanting around on a cute little white hobby horse is pretty comical.

The first act of the show is definitely darker than the second, with more content about Trump, which is semi-funny, but bleak at the same time.

It’s the second act (there are only two acts this year, a wise choice) where the show really soars, as we meet Mary Pop-in, played by Annette Wright, portrayed as a foul-mouthed female superhero who the characters hope will save the country and correct the somewhat nefarious goings-on in the nation’s capital.

The cast this year gets to play some really juicy characters. “Voyeur” vet Smith, particularly, gets Rominey, Vladimir Putin’s foxy sidekick Natasha, and, as he has played in previous years, a flirty, sexy, plummy Joseph Smith. It’s a little disconcerting for most of the audience members, I’m sure, to realize they are crushing on Utah’s most famous polygamist.

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The other vets too, get the standout roles; Wright as Pop-in, and Justin Ivie as a handful of characters including Brigham Young, or as he’s called in this case, Biggie Young, with a magnificently large beard, and high-ranking church official Brother D. Ivie really nails that droney, generic, pompous male LDS church voice, and it’s very comical. Dan Larrinaga also gets to stretch his comedic muscles portraying characters including Putin, Gayle Ruzicka (Godzicka) and the Roman Catholic Cardinal Pedo.

As is usually the case, the “Voyeur” newcomers mostly do ensemble work, and it’s a strong group this year for sure. The standout is Jacob Weitlauf, the first non binary actor to appear as a nonbinary character in the series. Weitlauf, who uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” gets the showstopping song at the end of the first act “50 Ways to Name Your Gender,” a play, of course on Paul Simon’s 1975 hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” While they sing, terms appear on a screen behind them: trans, queer, verself, terself, perself, hirs, ze. It’s an interesting choice on Borgenicht and Nevins’ part to include what is essentially an educational song in the main fabric of the show. The song is not comedic, but it’s a nod to the playwrights’ intentions to both entertain and educate their summer audiences, and it works.

The production elements are solid without being too flashy; set design is by Michael J. Horejsi; as usual, the stage protrudes in a ‘V’ shape with the audience sitting on three sides. The back wall has numerous projections on it (by Dwight Camillucci) and also opens and closes for entrances and exits. The costume design too, by Heidi Ortega, is functional for the ensemble, then a little more adventurous for characters such as Putin, Natasha and Mary Pop-in. The lighting design too, by Jesse Portillo, works well without being too complicated.

As I’ve said in the past, I am more partial to SLAC’s main season than I am to “Voyeur,” but this year was a strong one. It’s a fun, rapidly paced smorgasboard of laughs, political commentary and a valuable sprinkling of education.

“Saturday’s Voyeur” runs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., through Sept. 15. Tickets are $45 to $55, available by phone at 801-363-7522, or online here. SLAC is at 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City.

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