Act 1 opens in the cocktail lounge of the Hotel Monte Gabriele overlooking Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Bavaria. Captain Locicero, commanding officer of the nearby military airfield, enters, followed by Dr. Waldersee, demanding that the captain permit him to cross into Switzerland for his important cancer research demands. The captain explains that the threat of war has closed the borders. They are joined by an English couple on their honeymoon, Mr. and Mrs. Cherry, and a group of six exotic dancers from the United States and their leader, Harry Van. The radical socialist Quillery also joins the group; he is returning to France, where he hopes to unite all the workers of Europe against war. Finally, arms magnate Achille Weber enters with his companion Irene, who boasts a Russian ancestry. Weber describes himself as one without a nationality since he does business with all nations. As airplanes roar overhead, Captain Locicero announces that Germany has mobilized and that Italy and France are at war. Harry calls for music and dance.
As act 2 opens it is the evening of the same day. The Cherrys are declaring that they will remain superior to the war. Harry is again playing the piano and drinking. Quillery, ranting about the “dynamite of jingoism,” attacks England, the “well-fed, pious hypocrite,” and the arms manufacturers who have formed a “League of Death.” He turns on Dr. Waldersee, who, as a German, represents the swastika, but the doctor declares that as a scientist he is not concerned with politics. Harry shifts the conversation, offering to...
(The entire section is 644 words.)