Acting Class

Nick Drnaso. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (248p) ISBN 978-1-77046-492-6

Drnaso follows Sabrina (the first graphic novel longlisted for the Booker Prize) with an unnerving, mind-bending third outing, featuring an ensemble of aspiring thespians in an acting class led by a mysterious teacher named John. There’s strained couple Rosie and Dennis; physical therapist Danielle; nervous and awkward Angel; nude model Thomas; stressed single mom Rayanne; friendless Lou, who suffers from night terrors; among others. The class begins with simple role-playing and improvisation, but soon the exercises become more involved and immersive (with Drnaso presenting fictional situations as reality on the page), and the limits of truth and performance—as well as what’s real and what’s imagined—begin to blur. With deliberately choppy jumps in the narrative, questions mount: How far will these characters wander into their own minds? What effect will these journeys have on their real lives? And who, exactly, is John? Drnaso masterfully digs into the group’s psyches, unearthing their deepest desires, anxieties, and troubled backstories: Angel suddenly becomes excessively confident; Lou takes refuge in pretending to be a dog who’s treated affectionately by people. Drnaso’s signature flat art and homogenous expressions gets established then strikingly interrupted by wild, imaginative depictions of the surreal scenarios. The result is a provocative portrait of the search for connection and meaning in modern life. (Aug.)
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