Anyone familiar with nerd culture has most likely heard of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). The theater department is bringing Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters,” a play about a woman on a D&D quest, to the Hill in the first week of October.
The play follows Agnes Evans (played by Emily Schrader ’20), a woman who resolves to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons in an attempt to learn more about her dead younger sister, Tilly. Evans embarks on a quest alongside Tilly (played by Alice Tibbetts ’21), as well as her sister’s former D&D companions Kaliope the Dark Elf (played by Kat Grannis ’23) and Lilith the Demon Queen (played by Annika Hustad ’22).
The premise of the play is simple and familiar – characters search for memories or reminders of those who have died via the few mementos left behind. Yet the vehicle of D&D serves as a refreshing new method of delivering this story, energized by a solid cast of actors who bring meaningful emotion to the comedic production.
Estimates put the number of active D&D players at nearly 14 million people worldwide, and with its prominence in the hit Netflix horror show “Stranger Things,” it’s safe to suggest the game is a staple of geekdom. The game’s renown makes it an obvious choice of setting for a play focused on celebrating all things nerdy. The play utilizes D&D as a backdrop, but in no way does it rely on comprehension of the game — someone without any understanding of Dungeons and Dragons will have no trouble understanding the story, although they may miss a few nerdier references here and there.
“The vehicle of D&D serves as a refreshing new method of delivering this story”
-Jarrett Krouss ’23
The story, however, transcends nerdiness. L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ acceptance is featured prominently in the show. Throughout the play, Evans struggles to accept the realities of her sister’s life, such as the fact that she was a lesbian. The story speaks to the legacies we leave after our deaths, and how one person’s life can impact others.
While the story and character development are good, the ending leaves something to be desired. Loose ends are largely wrapped up in the closing monologue, leaving the audience expecting just a little more.
The actors adeptly bring the characters to life, adding serious depth to a show that is equal parts light comedy and poignant drama. A testament to the cast’s versatility, many actors essentially played two characters, one in the real world and the other in the world of D&D. This task was made even more difficult by the fact that many of the D&D characters feature some form of British accent.
The production features a consistent level of comedy aided by the witty delivery of the cast. A moment of particular hilarity comes when Chuck (Henry Bubula ’23), the teenage Dungeon Master who guides Evans through the world of D&D, meets Evans’ boyfriend, Miles played by Noah Smith ’23. The copious use of double entendre throughout the scene kept me laughing, although the more prudish might not find it as amusing. Other points of comic relief are the awkwardness of Steve, (played by Seth Retzlaff ’22) and his spectacular inability to play D&D, as well as Orcus (Aidan Sivers-Boyce ’22), the couch potato Lord of the Underworld who unwillingly accompanies the adventuring party.
The play involves a few short musical sequences, such as the well-choreographed succubi, or demon scenes, featuring Amelia Hillery ’22 and Maycee Klein ’23 as Evil Gabby and Evil Tina, respectively. Overall, the choreography was fairly good throughout, thanks to Ayee Mounivong ’22 (Movement/Dance Choreographer) and Matthew Humason ’21 (Fight Choreographer), which helped further the sword-and-sorcery feel.
Whether you are a level 18 Mage or a complete stranger to the Dungeons and Dragons series, “She Kills Monsters” carries a message of acceptance and community, with plenty of memorable moments filled with emotion and comedy. You can catch the show in the Haugen Theater starting Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 5 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 at 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Tickets are free for St. Olaf students and staff.