“She Kills Monsters” Rolls… It’s a Critical Hit!
Opening May 5 at the Santa Fe Playhouse, “She Kills Monsters” written by Qui Nguyen, weaves an incredible narrative about grief, family and the impact of storytelling. The play revolves around Agnes Evans (Joey Beth Gilbert), a high school teacher who has just lost her teenage sister, Tilly (Sara Jackson) in a car accident. Upon cleaning out her sister’s room, Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons and Dragons “module,” a book that guides D&D players through a roleplay adventure. With the help of the D&D player Chuck, Agnes dives into the world she never knew her sister inhabited whilst coming to terms with her loss. As she plays the game, she discovers her sister’s struggles fitting in at school, her identity issues and the sister she never realized she had.
Playhouse Artistic Director Vaughn Irving first saw “She Kills Monsters” in 2012 at the Rorschach Theatre in Washington DC and fell in love with it. After being hired by the Playhouse last September, he was tasked with the job of choosing plays to put on during the season. “I wanted a really diverse season. I wanted something for everybody,” Irving says, which is where “She Kills Monsters” reared its dragon head again. Irving put out a call for directors and soon SFUAD Performing Arts alumnus Malcom Morgan was hired for the project. “[Morgan] had knowledge of the nerdly culture stuff, but he wasn’t so inside of the nerdly culture stuff that he couldn’t direct a show that wouldn’t be accessible to everyone and that’s one of the things I found really nice about having [Morgan] as a director. He’s good at giving it in layman’s terms,” says Irving.
This play seems to have something for everyone. Whether you’ve never played D&D or you carry your D-20 with you at all times, this production will absolutely captivate you. Morgan described the play as bringing a unique, “youthful voice” to the city of Santa Fe. The majority of the cast is female, with most of the characters being queer, something Agnes never knew about her sister. Agnes herself provides a catalyst for the non-D&D-player audience to understand the game and helps guide them through the intricacies of the nerdy subculture. “It’s relatable to everyone,” says Morgan who had never played D&D before joining the production. “If you don’t understand Dungeons and Dragons, you can still watch this play,” says Irving.
One of the most powerful themes of the production was the power of storytelling. D&D is a game that relies heavily on storytelling and often is a means of wish fulfillment. Agnes’ wish is to understand her sister better and form a bond with her that she didn’t have when she was alive. Through the power of story and roleplaying, she is able to reconnect with Tilly and discover things she didn’t previously know about her. Story becomes a way for her to process her grief.
The acting was particularly incredible in this production. Gilbert brings a wonderful honesty to the role of Agnes and portrays grief and discovery in a beautiful performance that allows the everyman to jump into the world of D&D. Jackson is also impeccable as Tilly, giving the nerdy, vibrant lifestyle of tabletop gamers a quirky nod while also portraying the nuance of a closeted character. Many SFUAD students were involved in the production of the play. Both leads are currently studying acting at the university as well as Megan Kelly (Lilith), Ramiro Leal (Evil Tino), Niko’a Salas (Chuck), Dylan Salewski (Orcus), Douglas Smith (Steve), Sarah Spickard (Evil Gabbi) and Devyn Williams (Kaliope). SFUAD alumni include Julia Rocke (Vera/Ferrah) and Hamilton Turner (Miles).
Tickets are on sale now. The show opens with a $15 preview performance on May 5 and will run until May 22. Tickets for regular shows at $25 for General Admission and $20 for Students, Seniors, Teachers and Military. SFUAD Students can use the code “Jackalope” to get $5 off all regular performances. The code cannot be applied to the preview or gala performance. Tickets can be purchased at http://santafeplayhouse.org/event/she-kills-monsters/2016-05-06/ or by calling Theatre Manager Jennie Lewis at 505-988-4262.