“The Night I Met Monkey Jesus” conveys heartwarming story through vivid characters



Jean (junior Eve Jones) and her bowling team (sophomores Grace Thompson, Isaac Morse and Joann Huang) in one of the final moments of the show.

A ringing timer echoed across the empty stage, breaking the tense silence. Jean (junior Eve Jones) apprehensively reads the opened pregnancy test sitting on the table. Her face crinkles in despair as she screams, “Damn it!” into the darkness.

“The Night I Met Monkey Jesus,” presented by the BHS Drama Society for the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s Annual High School Drama Festival follows the heartwarming story of a young woman, Jean, who has discovered she is incapable of bearing children. With help from a comical hallucination, Jean sets off on a path of self-discovery and is finally able to come to terms with her infertility. On this journey, she realizes that beauty and hope can be found even in the most tragic of mistakes.

Devastated by the news of her chromosome abnormality, Jean travels to Spain where she encounters “Monkey Jesus,” a brutally hideous restoration attempt of a prized fresco of Christ. Jean sees the mutilated monkey-esque image of Jesus brought to life before her very eyes to offer her inspirational yet hilarious advice for overcoming her despair. In the end, Jean decides she values being a mother, even if not a biological one, and is hopeful for a happy life with an adopted child.

Jean and her friends are first introduced as “The Bowling Stones,” a corny bowling group that meets once a week at “Alley Cat Lanes.” Hannah (sophomore Joann Huang), Adam (sophomore Isaac Morse) and Rachel’s (sophomore Grace Thompson) enthusiastic celebratory dances left the audience blushing out of sympathy for Jean’s embarrassment.

Rachel (sophomore Grace Thompson) wearing a towering fruit hat as part of her luau outfit.

Rachel’s eccentric costumes in particular were a treat to see. Over the course of the play, she wore a pirate wig, a towering fruit hat and a head to toe Yoda costume. For each ensemble, she tipsily acted out her role with a bowling ball in one hand and a cocktail in the other, encapsulating her playful spirit.

The mood on stage shifted as the set pieces smoothly transitioned from a bowling alley into a doctor’s office. Jean’s heartache could be heard in her quivering voice as she explained, “I want to look at her smile and see mine.” In this scene, Jones flawlessly reenacted Jean’s desperation to be a mother.

Gloria (sophomore Sammy Yee), the salsa instructor in Barcelona. Characters played by Freshman Eden Troderman, Junior Emelia Gauch and sophomores Camryn Lezama and Sophie Yang attempt to learn the dance as well.

It was evident that special attention was given to developing every character, even those with smaller roles. For example, Eleanor, an eccentric grandmother played by junior Emelia Gauch, enthusiastically flailed her arms during a salsa lesson and hobbled to the bathroom at a snail’s pace. Eleanor’s granddaughter, Charlie (freshman Eden Troderman), a sassy, Minecraft-obsessed kid insulted her grandma by yelling, “OK, boomer!” The collection of uniquely hilarious characters left the audience cackling.

Monkey Jesus (senior Clay Baker-Lerner) offers Jean (junior Eve Jones) advice.

Monkey Jesus (Clay Baker-Lerner) surprised the audience with a sudden appearance from behind a projected image of this restoration. With a mane of curly locks and a gold painted face, Monkey Jesus uncannily resembled the crude fresco beside them. Despite this laughable appearance, Monkey Jesus had a divine presence on stage that merged sarcastic comments with an all-knowing demeanor.

This amusingly wacky production reminds us that nobody is perfect, and that shouldn’t prevent us from living happy lives. Just like Monkey Jesus accepts his disfigured portrait, Jean’s infertility doesn’t need to stop her from becoming the mother she dreamed of being. “The Night I Met Monkey Jesus” teaches us that beautiful things can be found even in ugly circumstances.