Turns out, there are as many shades of Mormon beliefs as there are variations on green Jell-O.
Miguel Santana's “The Righteous and Very Real Housewives of Utah County” falls into that awkward category of a play best appreciated by devout Mormons, but is exactly the kind of play the faithful are taught to avoid.
This is not a cheeky “Book of Mormon” musical satire or even a “Saturday's Voyeur” parody. Santana is writing with heart about the Utah heartland as righteous LDS women grapple with the challenge of diversity in their faith—everything from interracial marriage to, of course, gay marriage. One of the most poignant characters is Nicki, a liberal Mormon who is trying to square her faith with her progressive political beliefs.
In short, it asks a lot of awkward questions.
In the play, that follows the sexual and spiritual reawakening of Emma, the matriarch of the Pratt family, as she faces an uphill battle against cancer. It's amazing how well Santana, who is a non-Mormon Latino writer from Texas, captures the cultural and verbal idiosycracies of insular Payson Mormons confronted with change. Santana, in fact, is part of the culture shift his play deals with. He is married (in Washington, D.C.) to a Mormon man who grew up in Payson--a community that Santana has visited and loved for the last 15 years.
The play's issues of interracial and gay marriage and sexual awareness might seem quaint to those unfamiliar with the spiritual terrain of Mormonism. And parts of “Housewives of Utah County” veer into a sort of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Sacred Garments” sentimentality.
But for Mormons, whether of the active or “cultural” variety, the play offers insight into the questions their worldwide church increasingly faces—if not answers.
Note: The play celebrated its opening at a Mormon Cocktail Hour that featured a not-so-traditional Happy Valley Punch–it was the proper pink color and served in a crystal bowl just like you've seen at every Mormon wedding. But this was a white wine-based spring sangria served with a scoop of carrot sorbet created by Sean Neves, bar manager at Wild Grape Bistro. The punch will be available on Wild Grape's bar menu for the run of the play.
This deluxe variation on green Jell-O salad–topped with shredded carrots and a carrot buttercream macaroon–was created by the pastry chef at Finca. It was delicious. You've probably forgotten how tasty green Jell-O is, but you can remind yourself with this version.
Chef Phelix Garnder of Pago even whipped up some Funeral Potato Croquettes.
“The Righteous and Very Real Housewives of Utah County” runs through May 26, at the Post Theater at Fort Douglas, 245 S Fort Douglas Blvd. Ticket information: 801-948-0631.