By Rena Carman
A play about adventure, dungeons, sword fights, dragons and family bonding took the Yvonne theater’s hearts. Trent Blanton, associate professor of theater at Westminster College of the Arts, directed “She Kills Monsters,” presented Oct. 27-30.
The opening narration was done by a voiceover while an actor, concealed in a classic red, wizard-looking cloak, set a magical tone. The narrator, played by Caylee Seredvick, a junior theater performance major who was making her Rider main stage debut, used gestures to tell the story.
Agnes (Sophia Introna, a junior musical theater major) led an average life; however, her sister Tilly (Mary Foster, a junior theater performance major) lived in a nerdy world. Unfortunately, Tilly and her parents died in a car accident, so 25-year-old Agnes sets out to understand and learn about her 15-year-old sister from Tilly’s notebook, containing a module for a game: Dungeons and Dragons.
Agnes finds herself in a comic book store, asking Chuck, who is played by Bryan Jahnke, a junior theater performance major, about this notebook she found while cleaning out Tilly’s room. Chuck, who describes himself as a D.M., a.k.a. Dungeon Master, tells Agnes about the game and how he used to play with Tilly, who was a well-known gamer. Chuck and Agnes make a deal to play in secret so Agnes can bond with the sister she feels like she never really knew. In the module, Agnes and Tilly go on a quest to find Tilly’s lost soul, which can be seen as a metaphor for Agnes gaining closure about Tilly’s death.
Although this play takes place during the 1990’s, there are many references the audience recognized and related to. From Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” to “go go gadget” to “I’m big where it counts,” there’s a reference or joke for everyone. Even a Donald Trump impersonator made a guest appearance.
The play was mainly a comedy, but since there was such a tragic background, there are some emotional moments as well. But the comic relief brought the audience back to laughter quickly. Especially when Steve the Mage, played by a Rider stage-debut sophomore musical theater major, Charley Furey, popped out announcing himself, only to get wrecked.
In one instance, Agnes and Tilly are arguing about how uncool Miles (Danny Gleason, a senior theater performance major), Agnes’ boyfriend, is because Tilly reimagined him as Boss Number Two. Steve pops out and goes to investigate the “gelatinous” monster, played by a green cube of light, only to get eaten into the stage, and have his bones spit back out accompanied by a belching sound.
Sisters trying to understand each other is a common theme in many plays. But not many sisters have to try to understand each other after death. Agnes learns about Tilly through a world reflecting Tilly’s real life of high school, which included bullying, and coming to terms with herself by living vicariously through a game with her closest friends.
The transitions went flawlessly. The juxtapositions between real life and the adventure added to the surreal qualities of the game. The set was a mini mountain of painted boxes to look like a cave dwelling. As a whole, all characters used the entirety of the stage for the actions scenes, so the audience’s eyes always had something to look at besides a character just standing there in monologue. Strobe lights, stage lights, and haze were the main elements of stage development used to help aid the story. It was never distracting or unnecessary. It made the play much cooler and almost modern.
One of the cooler scenes was when the team comes across a seemingly innocent fairy. The fairy is not pleased with them and puts up a good fight. Farrah the fairy (Maddie Levy, a sophomore musical theater major making her Rider main stage debut) “warps” to different sides of the stage and under the mountain, which is shown through a roaming white spotlight. Many other lights flash to emphasize the chaos ensuing during the five-against-one fairy fight.
All in all, on opening night, the audience gave the cast and crew a standing ovation. The play was very well done, and is something everyone, even those self-proclaimed cool kids, will enjoy.
Originally published in the 11/02/16 edition.