Dear fellow geek: If you’re not already convinced that you absolutely need to see a play about Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with a title like “She Kills Monsters“ and some beautiful comic-book-y poster art… then let the play’s opening lines convince you:
[cue hooded, accented, ominous narrator] “In a time before Facebook, Worlds of Warcraft, and Massive Multiplayer Online RPGs, there once existed simply a game. Forged by the hands of nerds, crafted in the minds of geeks, and so advanced in its advanciness it would take a whole second edition to contain all its mighty geekery.”
And if you’re still not convinced, watch this trailer:
Right?! A whole play about D&D that opens with a slew of geek tropes and references?! Yes, please! Did you know there was such a thing as Geek Theater? It’s probably not yet actually a thing. Clearly playwright Qui Nguyen invented it… and in She Kills Monsters he did it to a 90’s soundtrack that’ll make you alternately slap your forehead in embarrassment (because you still know every single word) and/or unconsciously start doing the butterfly in your seat.
If you were like the nerds ’round my neighborhood in the 90’s you spent most of the decade blowing on Sega cartridges, recording mixtapes with weird combinations of No Doubt, TLC, and The Butthole Surfers for your brand-new Walkman, and staying up to catch the late-night reruns of Xena: Warrior Princess. If you were like Agnes Evans, the unlikely protagonist (and resident bore among the battle-clad nerds) of this geeky play, you spent the 90’s listening to Ace of Base and tying up the house’s single phone line to talk with your bff, while your geeky little sister played dress up and slayed imaginary dragons…
It’s 1995 and Agnes Evans is a 25-year-old school-teacher at the same high school her little sister Tilly attends. Er – attended, since Tilly, along with their mother and father, were recently killed in a car crash. Agnes is the only survivor of the Evans family, and after a brief shadow puppet intro to set up some bio background, we’re introduced to a fairly well-adjusted Agnes approaching one of her pubescent geeky students for help uncovering the mystery of her sister’s Dungeons and Dragons module (info that sets up the game).
And we’re off! In no time there are sexy-clad warrior women swinging battle-axes and kicking some serious demon monster ass. Agnes is caught up in a world she doesn’t understand and mostly judges it as pretty ridiculous. But it’s all she has left of her sister, and so she takes up a sword and in her flowery “Mom” skirt she fights alongside a ragtag team of heroes, including….
Kaliope, the Dark Elf/Drow (actress Adobuere Ebiama)
Orcus, the lazy demon overlord (actor Stewart Evan Smith)
Lillith, the demon queen (actress Meredith Saran)
and of course…
her sister, Tillius, the Paladin (actress Jordan Clark)
Along the way, Agnes is not only inducted into the fantasy land fueled by obsessive geekery, but she begins to realize how little she really knew her sister.
Qui Nguyen didn’t just write a play about D&D to see a bunch of beautiful nerds swing swords and battle sexy succubus cheerleaders. For as amazing as the action scenes are (thanks to Fight Director Robert Najarian, cause I’m pretty sure those were actual weapons… that battle-axe looked like it had some heft to it…), and as fun as it is to rock out to Butthole Surfers while badass warrior women slice and dice bugbears and carnivorous gelatinous cubes, it is still ultimately a play about a woman who has tragically lost her family, and who is wrestling with the ghost of a sister she never really knew. And it’s also about Tilly, a geeky girl who retreats from a meaner world that doesn’t understand her into a fantasy land where she gets to decide the rules of the world and slay some mean monsters in the meantime.
Somehow, even sandwiched between the glorious sound of swords clanking over “The World Is A Vampire” by The Smashing Pumpkins and scenes of a sassy, killer faerie grooving to TLC, the more serious moments still hold their weight. She Kills Monsters is smart and hilarious and a complete and total geek-out, and it’s also an homage to all the outsiders for whom games, fantastical worlds, and other geeky enterprises were places to be more themselves, who they want to be, or to get completely away from reality altogether.
The cast and crew, led by Director Shira Milikowsky, came up with inventive ways to use the space and create seamless and clear transitions between the D&D world and Agnes’ reality. Actress Kaitee Tredway hijacked the show with her bold and sadistic portrayal of Evil Tina, succubus cheerleader, and the sassy faerie Farrah.
It was a nice surprise to be so pleased every time minor character Jamianne Devlin came on stage as Agnes’ snarky, no-bullshit best friend Vera. Though not a lead role, Devlin played Vera perfectly, giving the real-world scenes just as much spunk and vitality as the demon-infested sword-clanging D&D world.
And of course, real-life sisters Jordan Clark (Tilly) and Paige Clark Anderson (Agnes), who I’m betting will solve all their sibling disputes via. sword fight from now on, totally nailed the sisterly love, complete with juvenile bickering and taunting.
Because this is Geek Outsider, and because the super awesome cast was winningly diverse and female-led, I have to also give a shout-out to Company One, the super awesome theater company behind the show, which was founded, according to their website, “to integrate Boston audiences, challenge the city’s social divides and foster a new generation of theatre-makers and theatergoers.” Love it.
Basically, go see it. Now. Ten bucks you go home and dig-out your twenty-sided die immediately afterwards.
by Qui Nguyen
Directed by Shira Milikowsky
Fight Direction by Robert Najarian
April 13 – May 11, 2013
BCA Plaza Theatre
Also. Did I mention swords? There are lots of swords.