As someone who grew up in the hardcore/new wave/goth scene in Colorado Springs in the late ’80s, and who recently reviewed Alexandra Pelosi’s The Trials of Ted Haggard and penned a column entitled “In Defense of Ted Haggard,” I was anxious to wrap up my trip through Pastor Ted-land with This Beautiful City, the latest production from the Civilians, the acclaimed “documentary theatre company” that this time around has immersed itself in the mega-church movement (and its opposition) in Colorado Springs. It’s now playing at the Vineyard Theater through March 15th—so you still have time to catch it before it wins a well-deserved Obie and transfers to Broadway.
Unlike Pelosi’s skin-deep HBO doc, This Beautiful City provides a thoroughly researched context for the evangelizing of Colorado Springs. Over coffee at a downtown cafe the Alt Writer (Brandon Miller, just one of six flawless cast members)—a disgruntled native who laments, “We could have been like Santa Fe, now I feel like I’m living in Middle-earth” and shows us his “church kicking” slideshow (yup, photos of his friends going up to various church buildings and delivering a kick) projected onto one of many smartly employed screens—dispenses the cultural history of the town from the 80s through the 90s, when the city commissioners brought in the evangelical nonprofits in an effort to jumpstart the economy. Opening on a “wild west” note, complete with singing cowboys, the production quickly deconstructs that very cliché through nuanced, finely drawn characters without a twang in their voice. In other words, portraits of real people are given the non-condescending respect they deserve.