Palace of the End
Judith Thompson's uneven triptych of monologues about the Middle East crisis still packs an emotional wallop.
The show begins with Teri Lamm as Lynndie England, one of the U.S. soldiers who was convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Her monologue attempts to show how one individual can dehumanize another. As depicted here, Lynndie keeps saying that she didn't do anything wrong and that her actions were those of a patriot. But every now and again, doubt and guilt will creep through her words, and Lamm nicely captures this contradiction. Unfortunately, the monologue as a whole isn't as complex as it could be. Lynndie is portrayed too stereotypically, making it easy to dismiss both the character and her arguments; a bolder choice would have been to try to make the audience believe that she was right.
Dr. David Kelly, portrayed by Rocco Sisto, was the British weapons inspector who blew the whistle on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or the lack thereof. Kelly allegedly committed suicide, although many suspect foul play. Thompson has imagined that he did indeed kill himself, but uses her play to imagine why he may have done so. The speech is an intriguing look at morality and heroism. Sisto is good in the piece's quieter moments, but tends to be a little too melodramatic in the more emotional sections.
The final segment of the show is also the best written and performed. Heather Raffo portrays Nehrjas Al Saffarh, an Iraqi communist who suffered torture under Saddam Hussein's regime and was later killed by U.S. bombs during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Raffo tells Nehrjas' story with humor and charisma, allowing the audience to identify with her strongly. Yet, she doesn't pull her punches when it comes to describing the horrors that Nehrjas endured under the hands of Hussein's secret police at the "Palace of the End" of the play's title. The monologue is also a bittersweet examination of faith, and how one can both gain and lose it.