The cast and crew of "She Kills Monsters" slayed the stage on opening night, Friday, May 31 at the Quirk-Sponberg theater.
Patrons filed into the theater to the sounds of feel-good hits from the 90s, including TLC’s "Waterfalls," Montell Jordan’s "This Is How We Do It" and Oasis’ "Wonderwall." Director Pam Cardell kicked off the night with a light-hearted, humorous introduction and the cast took it from there.
Built on a strong script from Qui Nguyen, "She Kills Monsters" gave the entire EMU theater department a chance to showcase their unique abilities. The costume and makeup crew were on point in their representation of the characters while the set construction and effects crews worked together to bring this story to life.
"She Kills Monsters" follows the tale of Agnes, played by Kelsey Booth, who lost her family in an unfortunate car accident. Agnes is a college graduate, living in Athens, Ohio, in 1995. She is described as an average person living an average life in an average town. Agnes had a younger sister, Tilly, who was only a teenager when she died.
Upon cleaning out Tilly’s belongings, Agnes discovers a notebook. Inside of this notebook lives the inhabitants of New Landia, a world born of Tilly’s imagination. Unsure of what to make of this discovery, Agnes follows her only clue to Chuck Biggs. Biggs is a seasoned dungeon master who generously offers to take Agnes on her quest through Tilly’s world.
While this sounds oddly erotic, the reality is much funnier. Described as dungeon master throughout the night, Biggs, played by Cameron Graham, is unabashedly nerdy. The dungeon he has mastered is that of Dungeons & Dragons. Tilly’s world, New Landia, is a D&D adventure derived from her own personal experiences and tragedies.
With the assistance of her dungeon master, Agnes delves into a magical world where she meets her sister’s character, Tilius the Paladin, played by Kaitlyn Frawley.
“A dungeon master without fear, prejudice or a penis,” quips Tilly as her character, Tilius, is introduced. Tilly and Agnes are joined by a team of magical characters including Kaliope the Elf, played by Morgan Hoeffel; Lilith, daughter of the Devil, played by Liana Abela and Orcus, resident “horny guy,” played by Aric Bird. Together, they set out in search of Tilly’s lost soul in Agnes’ first D&D adventure.
As a D&D campaign, the story is action-packed and required concise choreography and sound effects to capture the audience. The cast and crew did not disappoint, delivering perfectly timed sound effects and showing off some impressive moves (including a dance-off that rivaled the Jock Jams release parties of the 90s).
Another important aspect of this production was the visual effects, with a 180° projection set built around the stage. The projections crew utilized these screens to create a multimedia experience that was reminiscent of a trip to the cinema. Truly the heart of the journey came to life through their use of visual effects.
Forging their way through the River of Wetness, Swamps of Mushy and the Mountains of Steepness, the team finds themselves at the Castle of Evil. Here Agnes finds she must battle the Tiamat, a 5-headed dragon that guards the castle. Along the way Agnes finds herself confronted with a sister she hardly knew. Tilly’s game reveals to Agnes the truth about Tilly’s individuality, sexuality, courage and strength.
“This experience has been more than eye opening for me,” said Assistant Director Madison Coates. “This is a story about being an independent woman. I knew I had to be a part of it.”
Tilly tells Agnes at the beginning of their adventure that this is a D&D adventure, not therapy. But truly every adventure leads to some therapeutic results and this was no exception.
“'She Kills Monsters' is a perfect balance of gut busting humor and heartfelt moments,” EMU student Abby Postema said after viewing the opening night performance.
“The overall theme that I've taken away from this show is the importance of letting those in your life know that you love them,” said Cameron Graham.
Graham was a surprise show-stealer with his endearingly nerdy character, Dungeon Master Chuck Biggs. Biggs is everything that 90s geek culture embraced. Biggs’ nerdiness is in full glory as he goes from bragging of his internet girlfriend from New York to warning Agnes not to eat his Twizzlers (a must-have late night snack.) Biggs bridges the gap between Agnes’ world and what is left of Tilly’s.
While Graham may have stolen the show, there was no lack of talent in this cast. Special props to the casting director, as every actor brought their characters to life onstage. The audience reaction throughout the night was physically visible; shaking with laughter, while at other times throwing their hands up to cover their mouths in surprise or to brush a renegade tear from their cheek.
“We look at what’s happening in the world right now,” Director Pam Cardell said of choosing the script. “What are we reflecting back that people want to see or need to see right now? It’s fantasy and make believe and allowing you to escape what reality is, in part. And I think a lot of people are ready to escape reality right now.”
The director’s note on the program states:
Come out and support the EMU theater department and the amazing cast and crew of "She Kills Monsters." The play will run through June 9th, with a special second run at the beginning of the fall semester.
June 7 and 8 the show will begin at 7 pm. Patrons can purchase tickets at the Quirk box office or online at emutix.com. Tickets are $18 for general admission, $12 for students and $14 for seniors.
If you can’t make it this time, be sure to check out their second run starting September 5.