Current American politics are so drenched in blood, so rife with cronyism, so dripping with über-religious hypocrisy, so enmeshed in greedy, screw-the-public self-interest, the movers and shakers are more like grandiose characters in a light opera than serious leaders on the world stage. This why Julien Nitzberg’s delightfully outrageous operetta “The Beastly Bombing: A Terrible Tale of Terrorists Tamed by True Love” hits so many of the right notes for our war-torn, terror-riddled, god-inflamed, bombastically beastly times.
Why am I writing about this obscure original operetta? Because the other night, I went to see it. And I was delighted to discover a play after my own Ethical-Hedonist-Secular-Humanist-Bonobo heart, tossing a motley bunch of murderous terrorists, heedless warmongers and ditzy drug addicts into an operatic mixmaster, and baking them into a pie of bonobo love, all with absurdist plot turns, fanciful lyrics, humanistic but politically incorrect sensibilities and a very catchy tune. It’s an operetta, a theatrical form I used to adore when I was a kid singing my head off in summer camp plays, but which quickly became uncool with the rock, punk and hiphop revolutions. Now with “Rent” and “The Producers,” operettas and musicals have again become très cool.
“The Beastly Bombing” begins with two Timothy McVeigh-inspired white supremacist terrorists, Patrick (Jacob Sidney) and Frank (Aaron Matijasik) proclaiming their love for America in Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque song, with a touch of Bertoldt Brecht, a dab of Tom Lehrer and a spritz of Mel Brooks, as they set about “expressing” their feelings by bombing the Brooklyn Bridge. Unbeknownst to them, two similarly whacky singing al-Qaeda terrorists, Abdul (Andrew Ableson) and Khalid (Russell Steinberg), are also planning to blow up the BB, singing just as heartily of their deep love for American values and the promotional use of gourmet explosives:
A delightful little bomb
A fine and lovely fuse
Could quietly with great aplomb
Help propagate our views
Into this den of rampaging testosterone and hair-trigger technology prances a set of drunken, drug-addled “First Twins,” Elyssa (Heather Marie Marsdan) and Clarissa (Darrin Revitz), two well-heeled, extremely loaded young debutantes that bring to mind those other fun-loving First Twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush. Of course, Elyssa and Clarissa’s Dad, President Dodgeson (Jesse Merlin), is the most deluded, narcissistic, bomb-crazy chickenhawk in the cast. He enters singing:
I am the bravest president
Who ever here a night has spent
As the White House resident
With the people’s great consent
By god, I have been heaven-sent
Sing fa la la la fa la la la yay
I am the bravest president
Of the USA
Knowing little, caring less,
That’s the secret of my success
The more you know, the less you do.
The more you think, the more you’re screewwwed!
I’m an active president who likes to act,
That’s why I say “fuck all to the facts!”
I can dance all night even with a corn,
I can shake hands with people who are lowly born,
At a military funeral, I can make believe I mourn,
I can even stay soft while watching really hot gay porn…
This last line was especially fun for us, as Mr. Prez chose my attractive companion upon whom to simulate receiving a blowjob. Much more satirical hilarity and rousing orchestral harmonies ensued. Operetta is such a happy art, especially in the hands of funsters like Nitzberg and his musical partner-in-crime and operatic revolution, Roger Neill.
Other stand-out scenes include the President’s tenderly romantic Pas de Deux with a devoutly gay Jesus Christ (Michael Edwin Stuart), and the loving moment when the white supremacists, Arab terrorists and President realize they share a common hatred of “the Jews.” An Orthodox Jew (Alex Resnick) is also lampooned for his hatred of “secular Jews,” and an altar boy-molesting Catholic priest (Curt Bonnem) wearing a raincoat over his frock coat and red frilly panties, officiates over the jailhouse weddings of the terrorist couples who, under the gentle guiding influence of the First Twins’ stash of E, fall passionately in love with each other. Then there’s my favorite ditty, the Happy Bombster President singing about his deep abiding love for the handsome white-sheeted Princes of Saudi Arabia:
Some say about terrorism I’m a fraud,
‘Cause I love, I love, I love the royal house of Saud.
When I see their princes, I just applaud,
Oh I love, I love the royal house of Saud . . .
Fellas can drive but not the broads,
Oh I love, I love, I love the royal house of Saud.
Of course, this is a LIGHT opera, so nobody actually gets killed, not onstage anyway. When one of the drugged out First Twins warbles that she’s sooooo happy, she’s seeing fireworks, President Daddy enlightens her that these are no mere fantasy fireworks, but real American bombs dropping on Japan (for the answer to “why Japan?” see the play). It ends on a high note of fatuous harmony, with all bombers falling in love with each other, kissing, hugging and hallucinating. On the surface, it’s a beautiful bonobo ending, though the reality –bombs, bombs and more bombs to come –ticks away just below the Ecstasy.
Special kudos go to Amit Itelman, artistic director of the Steve Allen Theater where “The Beastly Bombing” is currently being produced. Other Hollywood venues had turned it down; Julien reports that Stephen Schwartz, composer of “Pippin” and “Godspell,” called it the “most morally unredeemable musical he had ever read” and tried to prevent it from being produced. The Steve Allen Theater building is also home to the good atheists at the Center for Inquiry West, and had opened its arms to Bill Maher’s “Hollywood Hell House” just after the “Politically Incorrect” host was fired by ABC in 2001 for saying that the 9/11 terrorist-pilots were “not cowardly (as President Bush had then described them)Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly,” as opposed to American fighter pilots who were “lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away.”
“I do not relinquish–nor should any of you–the right to criticize, even as we support, our government,” Maher also said. “This is still a democracy and they’re still politicians, so we need to let our government know that we can’t afford a lot of things that we used to be able to afford. Like a missile shield that will never work for an enemy that doesn’t exist. We can’t afford to be fighting wrong and silly wars.”
Well, we are still fighting wrong and silly wars. In fact, we seem to be fighting wars that are more wrong, sillier and deadlier than ever. Most American politicians, despite the burgeoning anti-war spirit of the people, seem determined to continue to fight these wrong and silly wars for the benefit of their patrons, the war profiteers. So what’s a concerned citizen to do? Might as well have a good laugh about the whole mess at a politically incorrect operetta like The Beastly Bombing, bounce your bottom to the bounceable tunes, and maybe even get inspired to make love or fight (but no bombs, please, we’re peaceniks!) for a better more bonobo world.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex educator, cable TV host and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Visit her BRAND NEW BLOGGAMY & POST COMMENTS at http://www.drsusanblock.com/blog/blog.asp Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.