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‘Palace of the End’ takes us deep into the horrors of Iraq

Frank Theatre has never been one to pull punches, and that’s certainly true of its latest work. “Palace of the End” presents a trio of monologues centered on Iraq and the current war by Canadian playwright Judith Thompson.

Each character has a harrowing, painful-to-hear story to tell of torture, personal terror and death. It¹s also the perfect kind of political theater — one where loss, humanity and epic tragedy play out instead of discussions on policy.

“My Pyramids” focuses on Lynndie England, the “thumbs up” U.S. Army private from the Abu Ghraib photos.

“Harrowdown Hill” takes places in the dying moments of David Kelley, the British weapons inspector who broke ranks and publicly admitted that it was known prior to the invasion that Iraq had no WMDs.

And the third piece, “Instruments of Yearning” centers on Nehrjas al Saffarh, an Iraqi woman who was tortured in the early years of Saddam Hussein’s regime and then killed when her home was bombed by the Americans in the first Gulf War.

And while “Palace of the End” certainly has a political edge to it, what makes these pieces sing is the intense personal stories that make up each of these works. Each of the characters carries guilt about their actions, even if they aren’t aware of it on the surface, and that guilt comes blazing through by the end of their confessions.

The cast puts in top-notch work. Emily Zimmer gives humanity to England, who could easily come off as just a monster. Patrick Bailey’s Kelley is static throughout his piece but creates a full, complex world with just his voice and face. Then in the performance of the night, Taous Khazem never wavers in her description of the horrors visited upon al Saffarh and her family at the hands of their leader’s torturers.It’s a heavy-duty evening, but there are also signs of humanity as well, in Kelley’s love of his daughter, and especially in al Saffarh’s final vision of her homeland and all of the dead souls from decades of strife finally at peace.

“Palace of the End” runs through Oct. 18 at the Frank Theatre Studio, Ivy Building for the Arts, 2637 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis. Tickets are $18 and $20. On Saturday, the company holds its annual benefit, with auctions, wine and appetizers (tickets: $65). Post-show discussions will be held Oct. 4 and 11. For information and reservations, call 612-724-3760 or visit online.

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