Palace of the End

GRIEF OF BAGHDAD Raffo mourns her family.

GRIEF OF BAGHDAD Raffo mourns her family. Photograph: Carol Rosegg

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

The consecutive monologues that constitute Judith Thompson’s somber Palace of the End are acts of unbearable witness. One by one, the play’s three characters step forward with tales of violence, torture and guilt in Iraq. The first is American soldier Lynndie England (Lamm), who rose to infamy as an Abu Ghraib prison guard; even as she defends herself, she betrays hints of haunted remorse. Next is British weapons inspector David Kelly (Sisto), who died under mysterious circumstances after leaking information to the media about the “sexing up” of British intelligence reports, and who condemns himself for remaining silent too long. Finally, Iraqi political dissident Nehrjas Al Saffarh (Raffo) gives a harrowing account of the torture of her children during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Directed with appropriate gravity by Daniella Topol, the monologues deal thoughtfully with awful subjects, and have an undeniable punch. The final piece is especially effective: Superbly incarnated by Raffo, Al Saffarh wins over the audience with humorous banter—“They say [dates] are too sweet and rich for the Western palate, and yet what about this ‘fudge’?”—that makes her subsequent testimony all the more terrible. Given the seriousness of the subject matter, however, the play’s frequent departures into fictional embellishment are troubling: Kelly, for instance, claims that his decision to blow the whistle was motivated by an act of American brutality that is clearly based on an incident that occurred three years later. Such deviations from the truth compromise the play: Does Thompson believe that, for theater palates, the evidence of horror must be fudged?

Peter Jay Sharpe Theatre. By Judith Thompson. Dir. Daniella Topol. With Teri Lamm, Rocco Sisto, Heather Raffo. 1hr 35mins. No intermission.