04:23 - Source: CNN
Naughty texts spur scandalous play

Story highlights

A play in New York stars Rachel Dratch and the dialogue is verbatim from political sex scandals

Dratch talked to CNN's Gloria Borger about the role

Washington CNN  — 

Mark Twain first told us that truth can be stranger than fiction, which is of course true. But in this instance, it’s funnier, too.

That’s the premise behind the off-Broadway comedy “Tail! Spin!,” the story of some of the most memorable political sex scandals of recent times. Remember these classics?

Mark Sanford, former South Carolina Governor: “As much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail, that isn’t where I ended up.”

Anthony Weiner, former U.S. Congressman: “I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations, conducted over Twitter, Facebook, email and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online.”

Larry Craig, former Idaho Senator: “I am not gay. I have never been gay.”

It’s those – and hundreds of other priceless lines – that make “Tail! Spin!” unique. The entire play – every word – is taken verbatim from the news conferences, interviews, books, texts and, yes, tweets of those involved.

“I realized I could never write the kinds of things that these guys actually said and have an audience believe them. And so that’s when I realized, it’s got to be verbatim, because that’s the only way for folks to see what these things are actually like,” said playwright Mario Correa.

Different male actors play each of the infamous politicians but starring alongside them is Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch who plays all of the wounded wives, mistresses and other women. She portrays 16 characters during the 75 minute performance.

“It pays far less than SNL, but it’s good for me because it’s, in general, my comfort zone. I started out [at Chicago’s famed improve group] Second City doing sketch, and so the idea of like switching characters is kind of something I’ve been doing for a long time,” Dratch told CNN.

In fact, it wasn’t the number of characters – but rather what those characters were saying that first struck Dratch about the script.

“The thing I was most shocked at was the graphic nature of the talk. Like you hear like, ‘oh they were sexting,’ and then you see like what were they sexting and you’re like, ‘whoa.’ This is beyond any of my sexting skills,” Dratch said.

Some of the exchanges – especially messages sent by former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley during the Congressional Page scandal – may not be fodder for a family website. But most of them confirm the suspicions of many ofthose already cynical about politics—that the main players somehow feel, no matter how they behave, they won’t get caught.

The difference between life and art in this instance is that the play pays as much attention to the aggrieved women as the offending men, nearly all of whom stood by their husbands during the scandals – literally.

Dratch had to channel what they would have been thinking appearing at those awkward press conferences.

“I imagine when the scandal hits, you know, maybe later they’re going to marinate on it and make your decisions. But when it hits you probably just want to like air on the side of ‘I’m going to believe what he says, I’m going to keep the family together, blah blah blah,’” she said. “I don’t know I could see myself doing that in a whirlwind press thing. I’ll put myself there or I’ll sort it all out later with a skilled therapist.”

Despite the starring role of infidelity, Correa – a former Congressional staffer – says his play is more about power than sex.

“I think a lot of us make mistakes in our personal lives, I know I have, but the reason we don’t take these crazy, sort of outlandish risks and expect to get away with them is because we don’t have power to protect us. But these guys are like, ‘I’m a member of Congress, of course this is not going to come back to me, I’ve got a business card.’”

That’s exactly what Larry Craig showed to a police officer after being confronted inside a restroom at the Minneapolis airport.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t help.