Saturday, June 21, 2008

Palace of the End

Lynndie England: accidental torturer. David Kelley: heartsick weapons inspector. Nehrjas Al Saffarh: trusting member of the Iraqi Communist Party. With the allegory of Alice’s looking glass, Judith Thompson not only connects these desperate and disparate characters, but also turns a sharp mirror on society by revisiting the infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. Built by invisible, arbitrary borders (like Iraq itself), Palace of the End isolates all three of these characters on stage and then, monologue by monologue, uses their fractured realizations of the world to tie them together. Thompson takes liberties with her mix of research and storytelling skills when explaining Lynndie’s infamous “thumbs-up” pictures, Kelley’s suicide, and Saffarh’s struggle to resist Saddam. But these “invented” characters hold fast: Her writing is seamless and every bit as breathtaking for the audience as it is for the actors who labor for breath, fogging up that looking glass.

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