Last weekend, Chakeres Theater put on their first mainstage play of the semester, “She Kills Monsters,” a fantasy action adventure about a young woman discovering the life of her younger sister who died in a car crash through a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The play opened on Homecoming weekend, so alumni as well as students and family crowded the small performance space every night. There was a full house multiple nights and people had to be turned away.
On Saturday night the director, Jason Podplesky, came onto the stage due to, in his words, “unexpected but appreciated” applause. The show had a slight bump in the road when one of the actors, Mickey Toppins, ’22, came down with an illness right before the performance, and had to be replaced by an understudy, Kristen Feigel, ‘19. Feigel learned the choreography for multiple fight scenes and several lines of dialogue in just a few nights, and though she had to carry her script with her on stage for a some scenes, it by no means injured the quality of the performance.
The stage, like the play, is a blend of fantasy and reality, with real-life scenes held at tables on either side of the stage; and all scenes within the campaign happening in the center of the stage on a series of elevated platforms.
The protagonist, Agnes Evans, played by Kamila Jensen, ‘19, begins the story looking to learn more about her sister, Tilly, who in life was a dorky, closeted lesbian and far from Agnes’ life of “music and tv shows and boys.” She finds a Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) campaign that Tilly had written and decides to seek the help of a nerdy high school boy Chuck, played by Noah Perry, ‘19, who acts as her Dungeon Master. At first Agnes has a hard time understanding the game’s appeal, recoiling at the scantily-clad fantasy women who made up her party when she meets them, exclaiming, “My party is made up of a leather-clad dominatrix and an elven cheerleader?!” But Agnes learns how to fight a gelatinous cube and a pair of Succubus cheerleaders alongside these strange characters and builds relationships with them, forgetting eventually to differentiate fantasy from reality. Agnes’ first real-life monster comes with the realization that her sister is gay, and she must learn to accept that there is a lot about her sister that she didn’t know. There are other revelations along the way, like Agnes learning that Tilly hated Agnes’ boyfriend, and the story ends with Agnes overcoming the final monster of the campaign and learning to let her sister live on in her story.
The play itself is full of comedy and emotion intermingled with one another. Multiple characters use language to describe DnD that accidentally make it sound like a kinky romance, and there’s a beautiful elven fairy, played by Sierra Dann, ‘21, who swears violently and has no qualms about murdering everyone in the party. But alongside that is a very real depiction of a young high schooler who dealt with abuse and bullying in high school, being called a “dyke” by cheerleaders and falling in love with a girl who ended up with someone else. Agnes learned about her sister’s homosexuality through the campaign and struggles with the regret of not being able to help Tilly through her struggles in life. Agnes is able to come to terms with this and, with a better understanding of Tilly as a person, be able to let her go. As Tilly herself says at the end of the play, even though she has died, she can still live through the story.
The performance overall was incredibly personal and emotional, and an excellent way to kick off the semester for the theatre department.