By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
When Agnes Evans (Peri Walker) loses her entire family in a tragic car accident, she searches for a familial connection to her little sister Tilly (Ariana Starkman), and uncovers the unknown details of her sister’s interior life in Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters.”
Agnes finds a well-worn notebook among the last of Tilly’s possessions. She learns that her sis was a local legend in the renowned role-playing game (AKA RPG) “Dungeons and Dragons.”
With the aid of Tilly’s friend Chuck (Dennis Sen), Agnes decides to finish Tilly’s final quest, and rolls the dice.
Soon, Agnes is joined on the battlefield of New Landia with a brave paladin, Tilly, a sexy demon girl, Lilith (Emily Cooper) and an equally sexy elf, Kaliope (Bonnie Klopfer). They are reluctantly aided by the demon, Orcus (Davis Weaver).
The team of adventurers valiantly fight against Orcs, Lizard People and Dragons! Oh my!
Back in Ohio, Miles (Jacob Wiersch), the boyfriend, complains to the best friend, Vera (Alexis Primus) about Agnes. Miles assumes her new hobby is sexual. He isn’t thrilled when Chuck introduces himself as Agnes’s Dungeon Master. What does he think the D’s in D & D stand for?
Meanwhile, Agnes learns her sister’s darkest secrets, and discovers the real world counterparts to Lilith, Kaliope, and Orcus. She even meets two cheerleaders named Tina and Gabbi (Cheyanne Neuenschwander and Nikki Friedberg, respectively), who are evil sexual vampires in New Landia.
“She Kills Monsters” is a giant nerd fest. If you are familiar with D & D, or similar role-playing games, it’ll be right up your Diagon Alley. If you’re not, the language can be difficult. There is some literal and figurative dragon slaying in the show.
There are some nice performances.
Starkman is an adorable Tilly, making her untimely death even more poignant. The kid’s got a lot of spunk.
Weaver is phenomenal as the craven demon boy, Orcus. Take Dr. Zachary Smith from “Lost in Space” and throw him in a blender with Just Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes from “Will & Grace) and Sweet (the singing demon from the Buffy episode “Once More with Feeling), and you have Orcus. P.S. That boy can twerk it!
Neuenschwander and Friedberg are delightful as the demon girls.
Directors Kelly Trumbull and Ricardo Vila-Roger mount an impressive production on a budget. It must be daunting to read a script and find out there’s a five-headed dragon in the finale. Brava and Bravo for rising to the challenge.
The play gets a high score for being LGBTQ friendly, but Nguyen’s script has some really juvenile moments. Damage points!
On opening night, the actors had the unfortunate opportunity to play opposite a barrage of fireworks from Pitt’s Homecoming weekend.
There are also way too many tongue-in-cheek 90s jokes, but it brought on plenty of nostalgia feels for the college crowd. Young adult audience members were highly enthusiastic about the show and leapt to their feet with a standing O.
“She Kills Monsters” has a few bad rolls, but scores high with costumes, make up and set design.
“She Kills Monsters” is at the Charity Randall Theatre, 4301 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. For more information, click here.