Woodgrove High School
Dungeons and Dragons – a classic, beloved game by many nerds and geeks of the 90’s. Many have felt an emotional connection to it, finding it an outlet to get away from reality or a way to express themselves. But what about connecting to a lost loved one? In West Springfield’s performance of She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen, a new meaning is found in the classic roleplay game, one of coming out and of love between siblings.
Set in the 90’s, She Kills Monsters is a creative combination of the struggles of grieving and the comedic nature of geek culture. Agnes (Delaney Fetzer), a “normal” girl in her 20’s, finds herself dealing with a huge loss when her family dies in a car accident. This included her nerdy sister Tilly (Jane Schwartz), a young D&D fan. Among her sister’s belongings, Agnes finds a notebook with a D&D game inside – one designed by Tilly herself. Determined to understand her late sister, Agnes takes the book to Chuck (Carden Warner), a local high school Dungeon Master who knew Tilly. He teaches her how to play the game, and soon Agnes finds herself immersed in her sister’s fantasy world, adventuring alongside Tilly and her group of warriors: Lilith (Eila Nash), Kaliope (Tessa Chaplin), and Orcus (Brenden Blackwell), each connected with a real-life friend of Tilly. Agnes finds she must overcome monsters, both in the game and in real life as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her sister and discovering her sister’s homosexuality.
The show was brought to life with vibrant costumes, characters, and charisma packed together with a talented cast. Accented with classic 90’s music, the show took the audience back a few decades. The consistently engaged ensemble of monsters helped to keep the setting enveloping for the entire audience, providing a high-energy base for each switch back to the D&D world from reality.
Tilly was the highlight of the show, her consistent, powerful presence seen clearly in her interactions with other characters. She and her group of warriors all worked well together, especially the romantic relationship between Tilly and Lilith. Tilly’s strength was contrasted with moments of vulnerability, especially in a scene in which Agnes gives a letter from Tilly to the real-life version of Lilith. Although no words were spoken, the actresses conveyed the meaning with their expressions – it was one of the most tender, heartfelt moments throughout the performance.
Despite the strong message behind Tilly’s sexuality, the show was filled with comedic moments and characters, most notably Steve (Colin Jones). Steve was the definition of comic relief – he would waltz into “boss battles” in a naive way and find himself wounded each time by the seemingly harmless monster. His timing and characterization lit up every moment he was on stage, adding an entirely fresh feel to the show.
The 90’s aura that filled the stage would not have been possible without the technical elements mechanized. The music played during the fight scenes worked to both influence the comedic effect and to amp up the energy of the actors. This was added to by the distinct costumes, as each of the characters dressed in typical garb thought of when imagining the mythical creatures. This launched the audience back and forth between the game world and reality, helping to distinguish setting while also influencing the aesthetics of the performance.
West Springfield brought together the most beloved pieces of Dungeons and Dragons, and mixed them up with love and grief into a beautiful performance of She Kills Monsters. Fill out your character sheet, roll the dice, and immerse yourself in their show!
Stone Bridge High School
It’s a classic adventuring party – one brave-hearted heroine, one she-demon love interest, one agile dark elf, one morally ambiguous orc… and one awkward English teacher. In She Kills Monsters, West Springfield High School brings fantasy roaring into life and color thanks to a capable, dedicated cast and crew.
The story follows Agnes Evans, an unremarkable twenty-something who, after the death of her teenage sister, Tilly, attempts to belatedly get to know her sister through the Dungeons & Dragons notebook Tilly left behind. It quickly becomes more than a game though, as Agnes struggles to understand who her sister was and grapples with the regret that she didn’t know her better in life. Dealing with themes such as sexuality and grief, She Kills Monsters, written by Qui Nguyen, balances comedy and tragedy with a healthy dose of 90’s nerd culture.
While Tilly, played by Jane Schwartz, carried the show with her fierce spirit, Delaney Fetzer as Agnes was the soul of the piece as her character gradually deals with opening up and accepting the past as she delivered comedic one-liners and heart-wrenching monologues with equal finesse. Eila Nash showed impressive flexibility as she played both the shy, closeted high schooler Lily and the ferocious, seductive demon queen, Lilith. As the dungeon master Chuck, Carden Warner perfectly encapsulated the mannerisms of a geeky teenager. A surprise audience favorite was Colin Jones as Steve the Mage, whose frequent and comic death scenes elicited peals of laughter. The exhilarating execution of fast-paced fight choreography added excitement and high stakes to the adventure as characters fought masked foes with swords, fists, and magic. Overall, the cast did an excellent job in switching characters cleanly from Athens, Ohio in 1995 and their counterparts in the fantasy world of New Landia.
Technical aspects helped to transport the audience into the world of Tilly’s imagination. Ghoulish makeup, created by Ariel Kern, transformed cheerleaders into succubi and slackers into orcs. Costumes, designed by Kern and Sabrina Bullard, gave unique character and a fantasy vibe to the legions of foes that the adventurers faced, as did the impressive dragon props designed by Erin Downs and Jessica Moore.
In She Kills Monsters, the cast and crew of West Springfield High School brought the audience to laughter and tears. Their vibrant, honest performance taught that anyone can kill monsters, both literal and metaphorical.