The Playwright by Daren White, art by Eddie Campbell
The unnamed playwright here is one lonely man. He “lodges” in Uncle Ernie’s spare room as his own family stopped talking to him in 1978 when his screenplay “based upon his older, retarded brother” aired and subsequently won awards. While he “regrets this loss of family … he never wastes good material. Never ever.”
Now middle-aged, just about any woman the playwright happens to see (on the bus, on the streets, in the park, in his memories, even on the “introductory menu pages” of porn sites) is ripe fodder for his detached daydreams. While he firmly believes “he has much to offer a young wife and family,” he has a difficult time maintaining meaningful relationships. And yet hundreds, thousands of people gather in his name … as a highly successful playwright, all the world’s his stage, one that ironically he creates but can’t partake.
When Uncle Ernie passes away, the playwright “often spends his days without human contact.” Then his parents die leaving him responsible for his older brother. He decides to care for his bother at home with the help of a hired live-in nurse. The threesome become a family of sorts, providing much-needed comfort for the playwright … but life’s surprises are hardly over. The play must go on …
In contrast to the often vibrant watercolors that populate the three panels of each page, the words that depict the playwright’s life remain matter-of-fact, almost monotone. The book ultimately proves to be a somber study of the price of creativity and outward success.
The playwright could easily have been dismissible as just another dirty old man (and certainly, this is not a comic for anyone but grown adults), but both author and illustrator infuse him with a strangely sympathetic innocence. Glimpses of his neglected, abandoned adolescent years are clearly shown as the cause of his isolated mindset in adulthood. But a good story can save many a lost soul … even this lonely old playwright whose real life finally becomes more engaging off the page.