Suffrage by Jenifer Nii, directed by Cheryl Ann Cluff
Jenifer Nii's new and original play Suffrage, set in 1880s territorial Utah, is the story of Frances (played by April Fossen) and Ruth (played by Sarah Young), two plural wives in a household under siege by the federal government. Their husband, Benjamin, is in prison awaiting trial, and his five wives and numerous children must find ways to make ends meet. Frances is stalwart and traditional, loving her sister wives' children as she does her own and thinking constantly of her dear husband and his welfare. Considerably younger, Ruth is a firecracker of high ideals and modern thought, getting deeply involved in Utah's suffrage movement.
In Frances and Ruth is found a bastion of belief, despite their contrasting personalities. Theirs is a bare, solid faith that makes an unfamiliar family structure comprehensible to modern audiences. There is nothing odd or off-putting in Nii's depiction of these women and their way of life. The play does not condemn or commend polygamy; it simply portrays it. Frances and Ruth work to feed themselves and their family; they struggle to raise and discipline their children; they defend and practice their faith.