What happens when a 13-year old boy feels like the world is against him? He gets visited by a yew tree who forces him to face his biggest fears. In “A Monster Calls” at Studio Theatre at Towson University, Conor O’Malley is bullied at school and dealing with his terminally ill mother. At 12:07 am each night, he’s visited by a yew tree.
Based on the novel by Patrick Ness, the play is melodramatic and macabre. When the monster (Francesco Leandri and Alexander Mungo) calls on Conor (Aiden Wheeler) at night, the actors move around the stage, imitating roots that curl around Conor and try to carry him off.
The stories are creatively done…Props go to Daniel Ettinger for this interesting scenic design…
The yew tree’s first story tells of a prince’s lover who is murdered while sleeping under a yew tree. The prince claims it’s his step-grandmother, the Queen, when he was really the one who killed the girl. His motive is to get the people to overthrow the Queen. The story discusses the need for people to lie to themselves. The second story is about an apothecary who bothers a parson for his yew tree due to its medicinal qualities. After the parson refuses, the girls get sick and need the yew tree to survive. The apothecary is bitter and lets them die. The monster awakens from the yew tree to destroy the parson’s home, and Conor participates, waking up and discovering he’s destroyed items in his grandmother’s home.
The stories are creatively done behind a screen with the actors playing the parts of the people in the tales. The use of the screen, cut outs for the scenery, and shadows enhances the creepiness and fantastical elements when the monster calls. Props go to Daniel Ettinger for this interesting scenic design, enabling Conor and the monster to remain front and center while the stories are told.
The tree is the central focus on the stage and towers over the actors. Moved by wires above, the tree seems alive—and dangerous. Madeline Baynard does a wonderful job creating a truly terrifying ‘monster tree’ that comes to call on Conor.
With the third story, Conor faces his truth and learns to let go. He’s no longer afraid of his mother’s impending death or the bullies at school.
Show time: Approximately two hours with one intermission.
Advisory: May contain material recommended for mature audiences.
“A Monster Calls” runs through December 10, 2022 at Studio Theatre, CA 3060, Center for the Arts, Towson University, 7700 Osler Dr, Towson, MD 21204. Tickets to events held in the Center for the Arts can be purchased through the TU Arts Box Office, located in the Center for the Arts on the 3rd floor, Room 3038. Tickets can be purchased at any time online at TU Arts Box Office. Window and telephone sales are accepted Tuesday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m. during the academic semester. Phone: 410-704-ARTS (2787) Email: email@example.com