Last year, one of my sister’s friends asked her what kinds of things I do for fun (I have that effect on people). My sister told her that I collect “argyles.” What she was referring to was my teenage self’s bookshelf-filling collection of Dungeons & Dragons figurines, including a lone “gargoyle” on the top shelf. I guess it made an impression.
My sister understands me a little more now than she did when we were teenagers, but we’ve had time to explain ourselves to one another. Time is not a luxury given to the protagonist of Theatre Baton Rouge’s show She Kills Monsters.
The play is narrated by actress — and Galadriel stand-in — Brooke Weber, who tells the story of Agnes Evans (Kendall Anne Gibson) trying to connect with her recently deceased sister Tilly (Ashley Stevens) via a custom D&D module she left behind. A module is a standalone adventure, complete with storyline, characters, and monsters that a Dungeon Master can use to guide players on a quest.
Agnes is guided on her sister’s quest by Chuck (Bennett Cockerham), a game store manager and friend of Tilly. Cockerham brings empathy to a character who could easily be misrepresented as the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
The dynamic between Gibson and Stevens is perfect, with their conversations carrying the casual sarcasm of siblings while avoiding Buffy the Vampire Slayer levels of snark. Gibson is a suitable guide for anyone coming to the show lacking experience with role-playing games. Her confusion, discomfort, and exasperation with her sister’s world of D&D will keep newbies from feeling left out.
Here’s the thing about Dungeons & Dragons: It is by its very existence nerdy. You sit around a table, staring at character sheets and responding to a Dungeon Master by trying to sound badass while rolling dice. If you listened to it from an adjoining room, it would sound really dorky, but it doesn’t when you’re playing. The cast gets this and plays it to the literal hilt.
Gibson is a suitable guide for anyone coming to the show lacking experience with role-playing games. Her confusion, discomfort, and exasperation with her sister’s world of D&D will keep newbies from feeling left out.
Getting into your RPG character is what makes the game so much fun. Compare “I hit it with my +2 fire sword” to “I scorch its genitals with my flaming blade of Baphomet!”
This cast is more than willing to scorch some genitals. Stevens’ Tilly is a firecracker onstage, backed up by a team of death-dealing companions. Makaylee Secrest plays the demon warrior Lillith, Taylor Sinclair is the reluctant monster companion Orcus, and Laine Farber portrays the stone-faced Elven mage Kaliope.
Like a good party, each actor stays in character, a necessity in the funnier scenes. It wouldn’t play from a group of smirking actors.
The comedy is balanced with plenty of violence in a play containing more fight scenes than I’ve seen outside of Game of Thrones. The mini-bosses portrayed by Victoria Hill as Vera, Annie Blanchard as Farrah, Ben Ross as Miles, and Jessica Schwendimann and Torie LaCaze as Evil Gabbie and Evil Tina, respectively, are fun enough for me to not spoil for you here. Each villain introduces him- or herself to the audience and the adventuring party by dispatching the hapless mage Steve, played with excellent comedic timing by Reid Saari.
Wardrobe and soundtrack do a great job of capturing the 1990s nostalgia, and there are plenty of inside jokes for gamers and ’90s kids alike. But don’t feel intimidated if you’re not familiar with D&D or Generation X. This production is for both the Agnes and Tilly sides of the audience and wants everyone to have as much fun as the cast is obviously having onstage.
She Kills Monsters will be on Theatre Baton Rouge’s second stage though February 18 and is an adventure worth rolling up a character sheet for.