Variations on a Theme by Mussolini

Movement One   (Mosso)

Evening.  Ringing of church bells, distant anguished voices; all muted. Three women are gathered around a fire in the countryside.  Unsettled, they look nervously around from time to time.

Woman One (stands up):  Victory will be ours tonight.  I know it. (Walks to stage right, looks beyond the audience)

Woman Two (sitting): It just seems like everything’s falling apart now.  Nothing works the way it’s supposed to anymore.

Kettle drums and horns begin slowly, quietly, then faster and louder.  Woman Two stands as the dissonant music grows louder, hands over her ears, and walks quickly to stage left.  The music stops abruptly.

Woman Three (sitting, looks at Woman One, then Woman Two):  What’s wrong with you two? (Stands) Everything’s fine.  You’re both acting so strangely.  Jesus – you’d think we were about to get hit by an asteroid or something.

Woman One (turns):  Don’t mention Jesus!  I told you: never mention Jesus.  He can’t fix things anyway.  Only The One can do that.  The One (she stops, puts her hands together reverently) – The One will fix everything.  I know He will, because He has said so again and again.  He said that He is the Power and the Glory, and when he says that, I just feel this tingly sense of transcendent joy.

Woman Two (turning, pointing):  Stop it!  Just stop it.  For god’s sake, don’t you see what’s happening?  The signs are all around us: the lies, the plots, the betrayals!

Woman One:  And leave god out of this, too.  His power can’t compare to that of The One.  Just forget god, ok?  We live in different times now.  God left town a long time ago.  That’s why The One has come among us – to set things right.

Woman Three:  What’s with you two?  We were having such a nice time, until you both got weird.  And obsessed.  You’re just obsessed with things that are beyond our control.  Everything’s going to be ok.  We just have to … I don’t know … just relax.  And have faith in the system.

Woman One:  Yes, everything will be ok, because The One …

Woman Two:  No!  No, no, no.  The One is a fake.  He’s like the Wizard of Oz, except we don’t know who the man behind the curtain is.  And by the time we do find out, it’ll be too late to do anything about it.  Time is running short.  Something has to be done.

Woman Three:  Oh, come on.  It’s not that bad.  Like I said, it’s not like an asteroid is about to hit planet Earth.

Woman Two:  The One is like an asteroid.  An out-of-control, mindless asteroid that will destroy all life as we know it.  I can’t believe you two don’t see that. 

Woman One:  What I see is that The One is creating a New World Order, because the old order is senile and irrelevant.  It’s outlived its usefulness – if it ever had one.  Our Homeland will once again stand as a shining example of Power and Exceptionalism to all the peoples of the world.  Especially the wobbly ones that have pretended to be our friends for the last fifty years; the ones who have abused our good intentions, and robbed us blind in the process. 

Woman Two:  Your devotion is misplaced.  When everything we’ve known, everything we’ve believed in, lies in ashes, you’ll see how dangerous The One is, and how foolish both of you have been.  And there will be no one to feel sorry for you, because we’ll all be lost in the darkness.

Somber music rises as the three Women exit the stage in different directions.    


Movement Two  (Accelerando)

A great, golden hall.  Through open windows, confused, chaotic music emanates from nearby, slowly coalescing into a martial air.  Attendant One, in a uniform with much gold braid, enters stage right, looking back).

Attendant One:  He’s coming!  Oh, my – The One is almost here!  Come along, everyone.  Come along.

Small group of White Men and Women, with one Hispanic Man, enter stage right.  Murmuring, animated, they talk among themselves.

First White Man:  Isn’t this exciting?  We’re going to see Him. In person!

First White Woman:  I’m so glad we could get tickets.  They were almost sold out.

Second White Woman:  We had to get our tickets from a scalper down the street.  It cost us fifty bucks, but it’ll be worth it just to feel His radiance, and hear Him skewer the Doubters and the Traitors.

Hispanic Man:  This is really going to be something.  I’ve only ever seen him on TV.

Second White Man (speaking to Hispanic Man):  So, you – you are a Devotee? 

Hispanic Man:  Devotee?  Well, if you mean, am I a supporter of The One, then sure; I’m a devotee.  Not in the religious sense, of course.  But in the political sense, absolutely.      

The rest of the group stops and listens to the conversation.

Second White Man:  But this is religious.  The One has singlehandedly brought about the greatest revival of Joyous Belief and a true sense of Mission than have ever been seen in this country since – well, I don’t know since when.  He said so Himself just a couple of nights ago, when He granted an interview to Truthnet.  I felt the power of His eminence right through the TV screen.  It was amazing!

Hispanic Man:  Well, I don’t know about all that.  I just think he’s going to help the economy and businesses and those kinds of things.  He talked about that a lot before he was elected. 

First White Woman:  He wasn’t elected!  He elevated Himself to Oneness, against all the odds, because of His natural gifts for sensing the strengths and weaknesses of those who opposed His Vision for the Great Overturning of America.  (Turns to First White Man.)  I read all about it in “Stealing the Future”.  I have an autographed copy!  I waited in line for two hours when He came to Philadelphia.  He actually touched my hand for a second or two when He handed the book back to me.  That is a moment I will treasure for the rest of my days.    

Hispanic Man:  I don’t understand what you’re saying.  You talk like he’s some sort of god.  He’s just a man with a vision.  I pretty much like the vision, but he’s a man, not a supernatural being.

Attendant One (eyes narrowed):  The One is supernatural.  He has come down from His High Place, to save us from ourselves.  It was laid out very clearly in His Writings.  Surely you have read them.  Surely you accept the tenants of His philosophy as the only True Path to our Salvation.  Surely you do.  Right?  Right?

Hispanic Man:  Now, wait a minute.  I think some of his ideas are good, but I don’t see this as some sort of religious experience.  I’m here because –

First White Man:  Why are you here?  And who are you, anyway?  Are you some sort of anarchist spy?  Come on.  What is it you’re trying to do, huh?  Tell us.

Hispanic Man:  What?  No.  I’m just a regular citizen like you.  I’m here to see The One because I think he could be good for the country.  That’s all. 

Attendant One:  No.  I don’t think you are a regular citizen (makes air quotes at words “regular citizen”).  In fact, I don’t think you are displaying proper respect for The One, and his Vision for America.  I don’t think so at all.  It might be best if you leave now.  We have no room for the likes of you here. 

Second White Woman:  He’s right.  You don’t sound like one of us.  You better get along now, before we call the cops.  They know how to take care of the likes of you. 

Second White Man:  Yeah.  I bet you’re not even a citizen.  The cops’ll straighten that out, though.  Straighten you out too, if you’re not careful. 

Hispanic Man:  What’s wrong with you people?  This isn’t the way for us to treat each other.  We need to respect each other.  I think that’s what The One wants.  He wants respect, and I think that means we should respect each other as well. 

First White Man:  Hah.  Like you have any idea what The One thinks.  Or wants.  Nobody knows what He thinks.  That’s part of his Power.  Nobody knows, but everybody gets it.  You don’t though, ‘cause you’re probably one of those libtards we hear about on Truthnet.  A libtard in disguise.  That’s what you are!

First White Woman (pulls out cell phone):  That does it.  This man is dangerous.  I can tell by the way he squints when he talks about The One.  I’m calling the cops right now.

Hispanic Man (backs away from the crowd):  Ok, ok.  No need for that kind of thing.  (Turns and quickly walks away, stage right)

Martial music comes up from open windows.

Attendant One:  Oh, hear that, friends.  The One is at hand.  Come along, or we’ll miss His entrance.  That’s one of my favorite parts of the show.

Exeunt stage left.


Intermezzo  (Allargando)

Bare dark stage. Women One, Two, and Three are barefoot, dressed in black, long sleeve shirts and black pants.  Separate spot lights on each as they enter individually.

Woman Two (enters stage left, walks to left of center stage, faces audience):  I am the Specter of Democracy Past.

Woman One (enters stage right, walks to right of center stage, faces audience):  I am the Specter of Democracy Betrayed.

Woman Three (enters center stage rear, walks forward, stops a few feet behind the other two Women, facing the audience):  I am the Specter of Reason Lost.

       Women Two and One face each other.

Woman Two (angry):  We were doing the right thing.

Woman One (triumphant):  The past had to be destroyed.

Woman Three (anguished):  I didn’t know what to do. 

Woman Two (crosses stage to center, gestures at Woman One):  You did this.  You and your wild ideas and your messiah complex, and your disdain for all the things you said you loved.  Why?  So you could control everything and force your myopia and your prejudice down our throats.  You needed to make us miserable so you could feel better about yourself. 

Woman One (crosses her arms):  Oh, please.  You were the one destroying the country.  I was just picking up the pieces and putting them back together in a different way.   Same pieces.  Different result.  Anyway, like they used to say, elections have consequences.  And, may I remind you, I won.

Woman Three (puts her hands to her face and begins crying loudly).

Woman One:  What are you crying for?  Everything’s going to be great now. 

Woman Three:  I didn’t know what to do!

Woman Two (to Woman Three):  Come on … don’t you see?  You helped her win.  All your indecisive flailing around helped her win!  I couldn’t do it all by myself.  Jesus.  I can’t believe how weak-willed you were.  All of your Pollyanna, they’re-all-the-same, it-can’t-happen-here attitude helped make this possible. 

Woman One:  (to Woman Three) Yes, you did.  And I must say, I am very appreciative.  (To Woman Two)  Now, as for you, I’ve told you before, that references to Jesus or god are forbidden now.  People may speak only of The One.  And only in very respectful and adoring terms.  It won’t go well for you if you keep ignoring that directive.  Not well at all.

Stage slowly goes dark.   


Movement Three  (Alla Marcia)

Outside the great, golden hall.  A brilliant, sunny day.  Attendant One enters from stage right followed by the group from Movement Two plus a few others.  Among them is Woman Two.  Banners (black letters on golden yellow) hang on the wall behind, saying things like “Our Foes Are Many but The One is Vigilant”, “WWOD?”, and “Only The One Knows The Truth.  

Attendant One:  Now, please be seated everyone.  The show is going to begin soon.

People sit and talk quietly but excitedly.  Many are wearing golden yellow baseball caps with WWOD? on the front.  Woman Two sits at the back.

But first we will be granted a few words by some of the luminaries assisting The One with His ongoing program of winning Victory after Glorious Victory, vanquishing our many enemies, and restoring us to our rightful, Number One place in the universe.   

Some people stand and chant USA, USA; pumping fists in the air.  Woman Two stands, looks around, but says nothing. 

Alright, alright.  That’s a lovely spontaneous outburst of patriotic fervor (looks up and over his shoulder to the rear) – Did the cameras get that? Ok, good – but sit down now.  We have a schedule to follow here. 

Three men (Sen. Benjamin Stillburn, Enforcer of Congressional Loyalty; Tom Mallus, Truthnet’s Executive Explainer; and The Most Rev. Orville Cruxler, Pontificator Extraordinaire) walk in from stage left, step onto a dais, and sit in chairs.

Our first speaker is the illustrious Sen. Benjamin Stillburn from the Southeast Region.  Sen. Stillburn was one of the first to be proclaimed a Hero of the Republic by The One, for his courageous work in stopping the Drifters and the Writers who supported them from overwhelming our very fair and honest elections with forged votes and fabricated news stories.  Senator?

 People sit and applaud.

Stillburn:  Thank you.  Thank you.  I am truly honored to be the lead MC for The One’s newest Show, which I can guarantee you will be the biggest, most spectacular Extravaganza of Delusion ever seen, even exceeding the grandiosity of His last Show, which drew a much larger audience than humanly possible.  And yet, it was possible, due to the stupendous power of The One to bring people together while simultaneously weeding out the Undesirables – of whom, as everyone knows, there are still many who plot the downfall of our Dear Beloved Leader. 

I am proud to be playing a small part in that weeding out, by ridding the voter rolls in the Southeast Region of as many people as possible, thereby saving untold amounts of money spent on lazy, ungrateful government employees who thought they had to read every damn name on the lists.  Our beautiful, pristine list now only includes those Loyal, Patriotic Americans who know they don’t have to vote because The One will always do what’s best for Himself, thus benefiting all of us.            

The crowd stands and applauds.  Woman Two moves along the far side of the crowd, somewhat closer to the front.

I now turn over the stage to everyone’s favorite Truthnet Talker, Tom Mallus.

          More applause. 

Mallus:  Hey, how’s everyone doing today, huh?  Beautiful day!  Glad to be here!  Now you know if you listen to my program on Truthnet – which you do, of course, because all Loyal Americans listen to my program – if you listen to me, you know that no one in all the land is a truer, more stalwart propagator of Real News about The One than me.  And you also know that every word I speak has been vetted and enhanced by the Department of Speech and Truth right here in Washington, D.C.  So when I say that The One is the greatest thing to happen to this country since Abraham Lincoln, you know it’s the solemn, unvarnished truth with a capital “T”!

More applause.  In the distance, “Stars and Stripes Forever” starts softly playing.

Hear that folks?  It’s The One’s theme music!  That means He’s getting closer to kick-off, so I’m going to hand the mike over to Rev. Orville Cruxler, Pontificator Extraordinaire and Private Spiritual Rationalizer for The One.    

Mild applause.  Woman Two takes a seat closer to the front.

Cruxler:  Good afternoon, friends, and may The One bless you.  (Murmurs of “Amen” from the crowd.)  When I first met The One, long before He ascended to Oneness, I could tell just by looking at Him that He was filled with the unbridled Spiritual Power that previously was the sole domain of the late deity we knew as “God”.  It just simply radiated out of Him in a way that was (he pauses, dabbs at his eyes with a handkerchief) … it was so overpowering, I just wanted to kneel down right then and there at His golden feet and utter a pitiful prayer of thanks. 

“Amens” from people in the seats.  Two Security Men (short hair, black suits, reflective sunglasses, earpieces) enter from stage right and stand behind the seats.   Woman Two looks around furtively, sees the men, and slumps down in her chair

Since then we have all seen the Wonders that The Great and Powerful One has bestowed upon us.  He leaves Blessings in his wake, everywhere He goes.  He is a Mighty and Vengeful Wraith who smites the enemies of our Greatness with the callous indifference they so righteously deserve.  (Red in the face now, he mops his forehead, and gestures with his right fist.)  He rid our Beautiful Homeland of the vermin who sought to defile it with their strange ways and weak minds.  He heaps destitution, sorrow and penury upon the heads of those among us who seek to undermine our Great and Noble Destiny with their antiquated thoughts of equality and justice.  Only The One is equal!  Only The One knows what is just and fair!  Only He can divine what we think and want!  May He rule over us forever and ever!  Amen!  

People jump to their feet, shouting Amens and USA, USA.  Woman Two moves to the front of the crowd, then walks quickly past the dais and disappears behind it.  The Security Men push their way through the crowd, stop at the dais, looking all around.  They never speak. 

Movement Four  (Prestissimo)

In a hall resembling a high school gymnasium.  Bleachers at rear, with many people in golden yellow “WWOD?” baseball caps, some holding signs with political slogans.  A large white podium with elaborate gold, Roman-style filigree is at center facing the audience, behind which stands The One, a tall heavy-set man with golden hair, black suit, and long, wide red tie.  Three rows of seats are in front of and facing the podium.  The seats are full.  Woman Two is among them.

The One:  And you know, I think … well, everybody knows … that We’ve done an amazing, amazing job of restoring America.  Nobody’s done a better job than We have.  We’ve broken so many records, many, many more than anyone else thought we could do … they all said We couldn’t do it, but We did, didn’t We, folks?  Everybody knows this, and if you have any doubts you can just tune in every night and listen to those good people at Truthnet, who, as you all know … since We eliminated all those conniving Scribes who were colluding with our Enemies … and by the way, We did a fantastic job of getting rid of those Fifth Columnists … Truthnet is the sole surviving purveyor of the Real Truth.  So go out there tonight, folks, when you stop at a bar, or even if you go back to your homes … and We’ve built some great neighborhoods around this country, haven’t We, huh?  Nobody’s seen things like this ever, not even the sainted Founding Fathers could do things like We’ve done … just go home, turn on your TV, and soak up the Great News that our friends at Truthnet put out there twenty-four hours a day.  You’ll feel better about America if you do that.  Well, you know, you better feel better.  Right? 

The One makes a narrow smile that might be a smirk.  Laughter from the crowd.  Chants of USA, USA.

Ok, ok, thank you.  That’s enough for now.  Look, as you all know, We are engaged in a new effort to protect our Beautiful Homeland by bringing our valiant Troops home from all around the world, so they can be with their families – family is so important, folks – and they’ll still have their guns, because We love guns.  Everybody knows that.  We love guns and We want to see more of them everywhere because … and I personally do not own a gun, but that’s ok.  Know why?  Because I own the Army.  And the Navy.  And, you know, all the rest, because I won.  I won!  Despite what some people thought We could do.  And We showed them, didn’t we?  So We’re bringing the Troops home, and putting them in some beautiful new barracks and forts, and they’re going to be so happy there, because We’re going to give them a raise too.  More money!  And we won’t have to put up with all those countries that never really respected us and refused to pay their fair share.  So …

More applause and cheers

That’s right.  More money for the Troops.  And We’ll just add a little more to your taxes for that, but you’re gonna love it, because America will be Great again, and the rest of the world can just go fend for themselves.  We don’t need them.  They were sucking the life blood out of us, but We’re done with that now.  They won’t have the United States of America to kick around anymore, because We …

Woman Two stands.

Woman Two:  You have betrayed us to our worst enemies!  You have destroyed everything this country stood for in the world! 

People stand, trying to shout her down.

The One:  No, no – let her talk, folks.  This is the kind of people We’ve repressed and marginalized, so she’s harmless now, because of the Great Work We’ve done for the Country.  So great!  Let her talk.  She’s harmless now.

        People sit, murmuring angrily.

Woman Two:  We’re not respected now.  We aren’t Number One in the world.  You’ve sucked up to dictators, pushed us into second class status, and you won’t be happy until we’re a third world country, doing the bidding of people who’ve always hated us and our values, just so you could look grand and important. But you’re not grand.  You’re a sniveling coward who doesn’t deserve to live!

Woman Two pulls out a 9mm Glock and points it at The One.  People cower, fall over chairs to get away.  She fires one or two rounds, which hit The One’s tie and ricochet off.  As she starts to fire again, a Security Man runs in from each side of the stage and wrestles her to the floor.


Coda  (Grave)

A gallows in a dimly lit, austere, stone-walled courtyard.  Hints of sunrise are seen beyond the wall.  Five Security Men stand in a wide perimeter around the gallows.  It’s obvious now that they’re Secret Service agents, watching and waiting. Two Executioners dressed in red with face masks are on the gallows platform, adjusting the rope, testing the trap door.  Rev. Cruxler, dressed in purple and white ceremonial robes, carrying an elaborate cross, enters stage left followed by two Attendants in similar clothes.  Woman Two, her hands tied behind her back, is brought in from stage right by two Prison Guards.  They stop in front of the gallows and are approached by Cruxler and his Attendants.

Cruxler (using the cross for emphasis as he talks):  Ah, here she is.  The great revolutionary.  It didn’t turn out so well for you, did it?  You couldn’t surmount the Awful Power of The One, could you?  Well, Miss Revolutionary, you’ve been tried and convicted of the highest crime in the land:  Attempting to do violent harm to The One.  There is, of course, only one punishment for that crime.  You shall be hanged by the neck until dead.  Then we won’t have to deal with the likes of you anymore.  Pfft.  Revolution indeed.  A bunch of childlike rabble pretending to be brave little soldiers. 

Through Cruxler’s speech, Woman Two remains stoic, almost haughty. 

Well, do you have any final words before the punishment is administered?  If you confess now to your evil deeds; if you tell us the names of your fellow conspirators; if you throw yourself on the Great and Infinite Mercy of The One, you might save your wretched little soul.  Not your life, of course.  We are about to see to that.  But your soul, young lady, your soul.

He waits a moment, looking at Woman Two quizzically, slowly slapping the palm of his left hand with the cross that he holds in his right.

Well?  Nothing else to say, then?

Woman Two:  Yeah, I have something to say.  Fuck you!  Fuck you and fuck The One!  You, and him and all the power-hungry, craven politicians who put him in power are going to die painful, miserable deaths.  You don’t think you will, but your time will come, and it’s going to be sooner than you think. (She spits on Cruxler) 

Cruxler (wipes his face):  My, my.  Such vitriol.  Well, my dear, it’s your time that has come, not mine.  Take her away.

The Guards take Woman Two atop the gallows.  Hands still bound behind her, the Executioners put the rope around her neck and then a tie sack over her head. 

Woman Two (shouting):  You’re nothing but a pitiful Quisling, Cruxler!  You and the so-called One are going to end up hanging from meat hooks on the National Mall. 

Stage goes dark.

You can kill me, but words live on!  You’ll never be able to shut me up.  You’ll choke on your own evil and then …

Sound of a trap door opening, and Woman Two’s body dropping down and jerking.     



  •  Mosso:  Agitated    
  • Accelerando:  Accelerating
  • Allargando:  Slow and broadening
  • Alla Marcia:  At a marching pace
  • Prestissimo:  Very, very fast
  • Grave:  Slow and solemn


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