cover image The Performance

The Performance

Claudia Petrucci, trans. from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel. World Editions, $18.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64286-110-5

Petrucci’s captivating character-driven debut explores the boundary between reality and illusion in the theater world. Giorgia, a talented actor who abandoned her career three years earlier for an “old fogies’ life” with her partner, Filippo, believes “every relationship is a game that involves acting.” She’s pulled out of premature retirement by Mauro, her former acting instructor, who persuades her to star in the title role of his Peter Pan production. After Giorgia jumps out of a stage window on opening night, she is committed to a private clinic where she is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Romantic rivals Mauro and Filippo swoop in, Svengali-like, to attempt their own cure, coauthoring a script that would manifest who they want Giorgia to be. At a certain level, Giorgia is aware of what the men are doing and recognizes how they employ the theater’s “code of deception,” though their script also tampers with shared memories from their three lives. Petrucci adeptly straddles the blurred line between sanity and madness as Giorgia grapples with “mind altering” hallucinations and with graphic details of hospital treatment, and makes sharp references to characters such as Shakespeare’s Olivia in Twelfth Night, with whom Giorgia identifies. It adds up to an unsettling and stunning tale. (Aug.)