Presented by Duke Performances, this weekend marks the Abbey Theatre of Ireland’s first-ever performance in North Carolina and first U.S. tour in more than 10 years. A small cast of three actors—two female leads and one male—will perform Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus.

“It is a remarkable piece of theater,” Director of Duke Performances Aaron Greenwald wrote in an e-mail. “[Terminus] is thoroughly engaged in a contemporary vernacular but manages... to be deeply and uncompromisingly moving.”

The play begins with an unadorned set, the three actors standing under spotlights. The simple visuals contrast with the characters’ lives, which are spiraling out of control. Unnamed, the characters are referred to in the script as A, B and C. A is a middle-aged mother burdened with regrets; B is a lonely young woman unlucky in love; and C has sold his soul to the devil for a beautiful singing voice.

The three characters direct their monologues in blank verse to the audience without interacting directly with one another on the stage. As the play progresses, their stories reveal deep and surprising connections. Initially, the world of Terminus may not seem relatable. The play features relentless violence and supernatural elements, such as a demon lover. But the personal crises of the characters form the heart of the production and drive the emotional connection with the audience.

One defining characteristic of the play is O’Rowe’s unique take on language, mixing graphic violence with an almost poetic lyricism. For example, A says near the beginning: “And this is boding bad indeed/see her fume and seethe/while I sway and bleed/and decide that I dearly need/to be elsewhere.” The offbeat rhyme scheme creates a natural cadence as the actors share their stories.

The stories in Terminus feature several disturbing topics, such as rape, disfigurement and humiliation, described in vivid detail to aid in character development. For instance, “A” puts herself in violent situations to atone for past wrongdoings, and C commits murders out of his own self-hate and inability to deal with a society in which he does not fit.

Irish actress Olwen Fouere, who has worked with the Abbey Theatre in the past, wrote in an e-mail that she decided to perform the character of A because of her deep respect for O’Rowe.

“I have been a fan of Mark O’Rowe’s work for many years,” Fouere said. “I was drawn to… the form of the language we speak, with its rhyme and action and imagery.”

Indeed, the script contains unusual language and even stranger events. The theme of the Duke Performance schedule this year is the “weirdness” seen in most important American art, Greenwald said.

“I think that this play contains some of that weirdness, in that it manages to be both common and uncommon, solidly earthbound and mind-blowingly metaphysical,” he said.

Terminus will take place Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. at The Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham. Tickets are available at www.carolinatheatre.org. O’Rowe will also give a lecture Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nelson Music Room on Duke’s East Campus.