Photo Courtesy of Manuel Harlan
Author Patrick Ness’s 2011 novel A Monster Calls receives an emotional stage adaption as it makes it to the world-renowned Kennedy Center. Sally Cookson directs the play, which tells the story of a precocious boy facing the harsh realities of life. Thirteen-year-old Conor (Anthony Aje) and his mum (Bridgette Amofah) have managed just fine since his dad (Tom Locan) moved away.
But now his mum is sick and not getting any better. His grandmother won’t stop interfering, and the kids at school won’t look him in the eye. Then, one night, Conor is woken by something at his window. A monster has come walking. It’s come to tell Conor tales from when it walked before. And when it’s finished, Conor must tell his own story and face his deepest fears.
A Monster Calls received a previous adaptation in 2016 from director J. A. Bayona, written by the book’s author Patrick Ness. The film should have made a more significant dent at the box office, receiving positive reviews for its themes, directing, performances, and visual effects. When I first saw that the play was coming to the Kennedy Center, the first thing that crossed my mind was how would the play handle the monster?
Without going into spoiler territory, I will say that the angle Cookson and her team use to convey the monster works for the stage. However, A Monster Calls was never about the effects at its core. Anthony Aje commands the stage in the role of Connor and navigates through a wave of emotions that anyone can relate to, no matter their age.
Whether it’s bullying or facing your own fears, Aje displays a talent well ahead of his years. Primarily the bulk of Conor’s scenes involves his mum. Thus, the scenes are intimate and natural whenever Anthony Aje and Bridgette Amofah share the stage. Age also great scenes with Socektt, who portrays the monster.
A family play that is sure to inspire dialogue about grief, I highly encourage you to make time to see the play.
Final Grade: B+