The fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons comes alive on stage at Westmont in She Kills Monsters, a play by Qui Nguyen. Presented by the Westmont Theatre Department and directed by Mitchell Thomas, She Kills Monsters is an earnest, female-forward adventure that offers hearty doses of comedy, pathos, and ’90s nostalgia.
Tilly (Rachel Herriges) has died. This “geeky” teenager leaves behind a grieving sister, Agnes (Emily Derr), and a notebook containing the bones of one final D&D adventure. Agnes, who lives a more mainstream teenage experience, delves into Tilly’s fantasy world to make a posthumous connection with her sister.
This production is brimming with outstanding stagecraft. The slain monsters manifest on stage in a display of artistic puppetry by Christina McCarthy. Set design by Jonathan Hicks involves paper screens that allow for dramatic silhouette work, and fight choreography by Danielle Draper is robust and creative. Rachel Herriges plays Tilly with sincerity befitting her paladin character (and complexity befitting her teenage character), and Alaina Dean is hilarious as TV-addicted teen Ronnie (known in the D&D universe as Orcas, the bathrobe-wearing demon).
She Kills Monsters, however, is not without issues, namely the nuts and bolts of the scripted dialogue. The concept is great, but the banter is somewhat juvenile, neutering the harder-hitting emotional punctuation. The blame here may fall on the fact that this particular version of the show is the “young adventurers” version (AKA, the youth version) of the material, which is more suited for a younger audience. This doesn’t dampen the enjoyability of the production overall, but there are a few “eye-roll” moments.
Most importantly, this play represents an encouraging direction for Westmont, a school that usually promotes more conservative values. She Kills Monsters is a socially aware play with a message of acceptance across all identities, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or cultural affiliations.
The show runs through October 29. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit westmont.edu/watchtheater.