The Ted Haggard Monologues
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 19, 2008
The Ted Haggard Monologues is first and foremost a terrific showcase for its author/performer, Michael Yates Crowley, who proves himself to be a deft and charismatic actor and clever and articulate playwright with this hour-long fictionalization of the recent Ted Haggard scandal. During the show, Crowley portrays nine characters, all based on actual personages involved in the case: Haggard himself; his wife; his three sons; his oldest son's 18-year-old fiancée; two Christian preachers; and the prostitute who outed Haggard.
Only Haggard and the preachers are identified here by their real names. I was surprised that the other public figure in the scandal—the gay masseur Mike Jones who told a Denver radio station that he "was compelled to come forward because he believes Haggard, an opponent of same-sex marriage, is being hypocritical"—is not depicted in the play; instead he's represented by a fictional creation, Rick, who is much younger than Jones and who, unlike Jones, seems to be genuinely in love with Haggard.
This is important because it shifts the theme of the show from what you might expect it to be—hypocrisy, perhaps; or the tragic downfall of a hubristic soul—to something less political, i.e., everyone's search for true love. Not just Rick is looking for Mr. Right here: the fictional Christie Haggard is devoted to her husband, the fiancée Diane desperately seeks companionship and physical manifestations of love, and Haggard's youngest son Lane confesses that he wants above all for "some man to love me." Haggard himself seems to be torn about his emotions and his sexuality; indeed ambiguity and ambivalence rule here, except where the devout Christian ministers are concerned. Reverend Dobson, supposedly counseling Haggard's children after their father's "sin" has been revealed, says:
He [Ted Haggard] is trapped in those chains,
And he would say anything to get himself free.
But we will not let him go.
God is merciful but He is not stupid, boys.
Shut your ears,
And put your faith in Him.
As I said, Crowley's writing is impressive. He delineates the different characters' voices well, on paper and on stage, and the monologues are alternately funny, touching, and provocative.
Michael Rau's staging is tight and effective, maintaining the focus squarely on Crowley's performance. There are a few literal props, but no costumes or set; each character is introduced with a simple card on an easel (reminiscent of an old-time vaudeville show). A choir provides musical accompaniment before, after, and very occasionally during the show.
The Ted Haggard Monologues nicely demonstrates Crowley's versatility and I will be interested to see more from him the future. It also provides some unexpected food for thought in the wake of this scandal, though not necessarily the really meaty and juicy stuff that the title might lead you to anticipate.