Acting Class

Drawn & Quarterly. Aug. 2022. 248p. ISBN 9781770464926. $29.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
A group of strangers united by a desire to change their lives struggles to discern fact from fiction in Drnaso’s darkly gripping follow-up to the Booker Prize–nominated Sabrina. It takes place over several sessions of a free acting class in a rundown community center, taught by the enigmatic John Smith. Each week, Smith walks the class through improv exercises that he claims will unlock their creativity and help them overcome self-consciousness. His methods prove effective, but the results aren’t necessarily for the best: one student’s newfound confidence brings dangerous personality traits to the fore; another is overcome with paranoia and dread; and a young woman named Angel enters a blissful fugue state that leaves her unable to account for entire days of her life. Smith insists his method’s psychological toll will prove worthwhile in the end—but does he know what he’s doing?
VERDICT Drnaso’s mastery of pacing and tone, plus his knack for developing characters through specific detail and natural dialogue, results in an incisive exploration of alienation that is increasingly unsettling as it builds to a shocking conclusion.
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