Saturday’s Voyeur

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Salt Lake Acting Company’s annual mish-mash of barbed satire and flat-out rudeness winds up, for the second year in a row, too heavy for its own good and not nearly funny enough.

“Saturday’s Voyeur 2000,” as this year’s offering is called, focuses on the LDS Church’s recent sale of ZCMI. Taking place in the basement of ZCMY, an utterly fictional store that has recently been sold to a bunch of Jews (or Gentiles, as the Mormons call them), the story centers around Frank Einstein (Kurt Proctor), a Mormon convert who used to be Jewish who is becoming more and more disenchanted with things since the store was sold. He confides his troubles in the mannequins who inhabit the basement, who themselves are worried about being moved onto the sales floor and having their nipples filed down (referring to an old legend that ZCMI would do this in its stores to make the mannequins more modest).

This “filing” process becomes a metaphor for all conformity. Mormon or not, becoming like everyone else in Utah is the same as having your nipples filed down. (Well, it makes sense in the play. Kind of.)

Also hiding out in the basement whenever possible are a gay couple of employees (Spencer Ashby, Robert Bogue), and two bold female employees (Annette Wright, Toni Lynn Bird), one of whom is a Catholic and the other of whom is a lapsed Mormon.

The Mormons in the story are either dim-witted — like the naive Sister Sandy (Marilyn Alldredge) — or creepy and evil — like the two managers, Parley Pope (Ashby) and Farley Pratt (Bogue).

The music for the show comes almost entirely as parodies of showtunes, borrowing from “Cats,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Jekyll & Hyde,” to name a few. There’s also a hysterical “White Man Mambo #5” (“Take no steps left and two steps right”), and a vicious Gayle Ruzicka skewering (to the tune of “Livin’ la Vida Loca”).

The parody lyrics are often amateurish, though, sticking too close to the originals and merely changing one or two words — or sometimes none at all. Clearly parody-writing is not the forte of Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins.

Social satire is their forte, but “Saturday’s Voyeur 2000” does not utilize it well enough. Many of the jokes comes across as more bitter than funny, and while they’ve nailed the Mormon dialect (“‘Preciate ya sa-much”), some of the targets are awfully broad and easy to hit — not to mention the straw-man tactic of the ZCMI nipple-filing legend, which probably isn’t true anyway, thus putting a parody of it on shaky ground.

From a theatrical standpoint, the show suffers from over-length and claustrophobia. Set entirely in the basement of ZCMY, there can be very little physical action. And since the mannequins only talk to each other, the humans usually just do soliloquies. Fine for a while, but not for 2 1/2 hours.

“Saturday’s Voyeur” is by nature a hit-or-miss prospect. This year it’s a miss, but maybe next year will be more fruitful.

Because of The Daily Herald's increasingly tight focus on Utah County events (i.e., not Salt Lake City), and also the show's limited appeal to Utah County residents, this review did not appear in The Daily Herald. A capsulized review appeared, though, for the run of the show.

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