A play about the game “Dungeons and Dragons” doesn’t sound like would evoke deep emotion, but if you go to see Hinman Production Company’s (HPC) production of “She Kills Monsters,” you may need a box of tissues at the ready.
The show follows the adventures of a girl discovering the sister she never got to know through a game of “Dungeons and Dragons.” Centered on Agnes, a young teacher fresh out of school who lost her 16-year-old sister, Tilly, and parents in a tragic car accident two years earlier, the play follows the events that unfold after her discovery of her younger sister’s old “Dungeons and Dragons” notebook.
Along with some help, she slowly begins to understand the life her sister had led, the one that she had turned a cold shoulder to. The show follows Agnes’ perspective as it jumps in and out of reality and the world Tilly created in the game. With each step forward in the game, real-world Agnes gains perspective into the loss she’s suppressed and into what she can gain from her sister even after she’s gone.
Mollie Teitelbaum, the director of the show and a senior double-majoring in philosophy and comparative literature, says that the play is a commentary on family.
“Agnes is telling herself that her sister will grow out of it, that it’s just a phase,” Teitelbaum said. “As a sister, a friend or a family member it shouldn’t be that you’re just waiting for someone to get to a place where it’s easy to connect with them.”
While the plot deals with an emotional journey, it’s presented through the action and comedy in the nerd world of Tilly’s “Dungeons and Dragons” realm with her friends. The mechanics of the show are by far one of its biggest draws. When Agnes steps into the realm of “Dungeons and Dragons,” she is met by evil magical characters that she, Tilly and their party of oddball heroes defeat in stage combat, utilizing impressive choreography and special effects.
Sydney Rosen, who plays Agnes and is a senior majoring in English and women, gender and sexuality studies, shared that the fight choreography was an important part of the preparation for the play.
“We had an amazing fight choreographer,” Rosen said. “I’ve acted in shows before and I’ve never had so much fight choreography before, so that was something that was entirely new.”
Although the story follows Agnes’s journey, we get to know Tilly along the way too. Tilly is a spitfire, quirky 16-year-old, who, in the “Dungeons and Dragons” world, acts as a fearless crusader whose ambition is kicking ass. In the real world, however, along with Agnes, the audience gets to know a very different Tilly that deals with the struggle of feeling like an outcast at home and at school.
Kasha Pazdar, who plays Tilly, shared that female characters drive the show.
“This show is filled with predominantly strong female characters,” said Pazdar, a junior double-majoring in integrative neuroscience and theatre. “It’s not just a female protagonist, there’s four or five strong female characters. All of them are geeky as hell or they’re feminine as hell. It’s great and it’s varied. It’s females in geek culture.”
“She Kills Monsters” is a surprising and inventive story that grapples with problems of emotional depth and social relevance. The show does so in a comedic, nerdy and action-packed way, and in HPC’s production, the actors bring a uniquely fun cast dynamic to the stage, presenting a realistic depiction of both the Tilly’s game world and Agnes’s real-life world, and the struggles and triumphs in both.
This show takes the stage March 24 at 8 p.m. and March 25 at 2 p.m. and 8p.m. in the Hinman Commons. Admission is $3.