Socialist Liberal Terrorist Middle Eastern Not-Their-Best Caravan! The Musical: A Review
by Ann Mittelraum
As if presaging recent headlines, Webster Lloyd Andrew’s musical Socialist Liberal Terrorist Middle Eastern Not-Their-Best Caravan! begins in Honduras, under the moonlight, and with a dream. The lead, Segio Mohammed Gonzalez, sings praises to Allah and also to Gloria, his sometimes mistress, sometimes wife, and constant partner in crime. The song details how much Sergio would like to rape a "white woman," and in order to realize his dream, he then conspires, in a smoky jungle bar, with the drug dealer Yusef Guzman to organize a caravan of disparate but universally unsavory types to trek to the United States, where "opportunity for rape, murder, and drug-addled ruination abide."
The trio’s plans are underwritten by Jorge Zorros, a shadowy, hook-nosed billionaire who learns about their plot while Googling the question "What evil can I do today?" He sends his lackey-cum-consort, Hill Aree, to Honduras to rouse the rabble, Le Mis-style, with a banner bearing a red crescent, a hammer and sickle, and a dubiously rendered line of cocaine.
The second scene flashes forward two weeks into the headquarters of "Seein' In," a cable news network whose executives and lead reporters are sitting around a conference table, and, to a hip-hop version of "L'Internationale," debating their next move. Jaime A. Costa’s view holds sway: "cover the caravan as a bunch of refugees / so that our cause may have its way."
Meanwhile, our heroes, Steve "The Killer" Miller, a presidential advisor and secret agent, and the billionaire-turned-not-politician simply known as "DJT" are having a conference of their own. Deep beneath a high rent—"the highest rent!" belts out DJT—Manhattan address, they monitor the caravan via live drone uplink, singing about the caravan's "evil, horrible people" and how "fake news" is leading people astray.
In the third scene of the first act, the action flips back to the caravan, in a commendable stage rendition of a cut-on-form, with Sergio and Yusef throwing a Mexican policewoman to the ground, reprising their paean to rape, and snorting cocaine off her back as they have their way with her. Now, however, they are joined by a chorus of fellow caravaneers cheering them on.
The first act, then, ends with the predicted and predicated actions uttered by Sergio; rather than postmodern pastiche, SLTMENTBC! appears to be headed toward the traditional/Aristotelian unities. Rather than decenter the viewer and the viewed, SLTMENTBC! recenters us on its action; rather than undoing the suture of the gaze, SLTMENTBC! draws it closer. And this may be all for the best: in a world that seems not merely overly but also overtly divided, Andrew's work gives us the chance to see the other’s perspective, a necessary lesson for those of us on the left after the surprise victory of the real DJT in 2016.
Take, for example, these lines from the second act, wherein DJT laments the lack of support from certain citizens of his own nation. The song "Many People Are Saying" is destined for greatness as a single, and is already seeing success as a download:
Many people are saying
the caravan is full of thieves.
Many people are saying
rapists, murderers are these.
Many people are saying--
tippy-toppy people, I’m sure--
many people are saying
for such animals there is no cure.
Within the empty space created by "many people," DJT allows the audience to project: who are these people? Where do they reside? By what means do they communicate to the president? The "many people" become "The People," the implied "We," the negative space into which we can project ourselves and, by proxy, come to understand the voices of the many who, by this projection, we realize are not like us. SLTMENTBC!, then, provides the necessary balance we so desperately need to overcome all this division.
The plot of SLTMENTBC! begins to build in the middle of the second act, as Hill Aree meets with nameless but instantly recognizable Democrats on Capitol Hill, each of whom bows in supplication as she walks in and sings to her a pledge to "invite chaos and death upon Real Americans—deplorable, deplorable all!" They also promise to "undermine our freedoms and greatness—to Satan we pray, amen!" Perhaps most affecting, or pernicious, depending on your viewpoint, and to which you have every right, is the next scene, between a coal miner and DJT. The former, besmirched with coal dust from his recently- regained job, sings a bromantic duet with the president, pleading with our hero to let him join the resistance against the invading caravan horde—now grown a million strong. DJT talks, or rather sings, him out of it, in a strong-willed yet manly falsetto, assuring him that
Only I can save us now;
only I know exactly how--
only I can turn back the tide:
in American greatness you must take pride!
And so so the voiceless, disenfranchised miner is not left behind; all of America retreats to meet him, while simultaneously turning to face our enemies.
SLTMENTBC! climaxes with what is arguably the greatest fight scene in musical history. DJT and Steve "The Killer" Miller are pitted against Sergio and Yusef, with Maria and Hill Aree squared off against the newly battle-trained S. Huck and Anne C., white rappers who manage to spin rhymes so dope the antagonistic womyn are baffled into submission. With lights representing the muzzle-flashes of the regular army taking on the rest of the caravan, Steve and Yusef, and Sergio and DJT agree to a lucha libre-style battle royale, barking out hyper-aggressive lines as they grapple onstage.
Here is met the thesis and antithesis as it moves toward synthesis. Certainly, evil is defeated, as it must be, but the final death throes of the rapist/drug-dealer/terrorist/Muslim/socialists harmonize with the victory cries of Steve and DJT. The cast of Dems arrives on the scene, battle-ready, but immediately they surrender; the acts of strength immediately impress upon them the need to compromise.
In a final, preening aria, DJT sings
See? I was right!
I am smart!
I was right.
I did my part!
I was right.
I’ll have my wall!
I was right.
We are great today!
Seein' In's reporters show up, broadcasting the scene uninterrupted, un-commented-upon, finally granting respect—the sort of respect that only comes from elevating the voices "on both sides" by abjectly refusing to call out a lie.
The curtain falls on a projection of melting snowflakes.