“She Kills Monsters” Drives Home Beautiful Message

DM Chuck “Call me DM Biggs” (freshman John Turelli) explains Dungeons and Dragons to English teacher Agnes Evans (sophomore Amelia Myers) in the opening scene of “She Kills Monsters.”

Corey Holmer

DM Chuck “Call me DM Biggs” (freshman John Turelli) explains Dungeons and Dragons to English teacher Agnes Evans (sophomore Amelia Myers) in the opening scene of “She Kills Monsters.”

Casey Murray, News Editor

They say that fiction is the great liar about the way the world really lives. In story we seek to find a glimpse of universal truth. We do not want to be beaten over the head with it, but we want it to be there. We want the story to mean something, to suggest an answer.

The best plays are those that answer many questions at many levels. By this metric, last week’s freshman-sophomore play, “She Kills Monsters,” was as good as they come.

For a play that prompted an official statement from the School Board at its October 7 meeting, a Freedom of Information Act request from a bona fide law firm, and a column in The Forest Scout, “She Kills Monsters” drove home a remarkable array of beautiful messages that were about as controversial as the old truism that the sky is blue.

‘She Kills Monsters’ drove home a remarkable array of beautiful messages that were about as controversial as the old truism that the sky is blue.”

Regardless of those deeper meanings, “She Kills Monsters” created a vivid world filled with magic and mystery. The play called us all to follow along as Tilly Evans (sophomore Evelyn Stanley), her sister Agnes (sophomore Amelia Myers), the dark elf Kaliope (freshman Mia DiValerio), the leather-clad dominatrix Lilith (sophomore Sarah Mack), and a television-addicted underworld denizen named Orcus (freshman Adler Hermann) fought their way through bugbears, cheerleader succubi (freshmen Kenna McBean and Natalee Stephaniants), a dopplegänger who first appears as a cube of sapient, omnivorous jello, and a swarm of other things (collectively: Vince Boberski, Ciara Carroll, Addy Coleman, Saige Joseph, Janel Sharman, Jack Taylor, and Shea Walsh) as they endeavored to reach the Mountain of Steepness and The Tiamat, a monster in the shape of a five-headed dragon who happens to own Tilly’s soul.

Any devotee of English literature would take profound joy in the play’s rich and varied symbolism. Agnes does not finish packing until she is finally able to finish the quest with Tilly, symbolizing her inability to leave the past behind. The tough-as-nails wood fairy Farrah (freshman Sheila Falls) chokes the trite and tired damsel-in-distress trope to death. Hapless adventurer Steve (freshman Connor Boyle) provides comic relief as he continually underestimates the many beings that seek to do him ill. Social worker Vera (sophomore Ruby Stockton) is a condemnation of incompetence; every single character who comes into contact with her tells her she ought to resign, but like the College Board, she refuses to simply go away.

There were the allusions to myth. Orcus is a god of the underworld in the Roman pantheon, Lilith is a temptress from Jewish mythology, and Athens is rather significant in the religion of ancient Greece. Calliope is the Muse of epic poetry, befitting the epic quest to vanquish the demons of intolerance and carelessness, but as a partisan of the classics I found it disappointing that the name was not instead ascribed to the narrator, freshman Tally Feingold. Regardless, “She Kills Monsters” was a celebration of the nerds and the geeks, and I was never prouder to be a nerd than when I left the DMT Saturday night.

There were the laughs. Swelling, overwhelming laughter crashed over the audience again and again. At some points the play seemed more like a comedy than anything else, especially during the brilliant scene where Agnes’s boyfriend Miles (freshman Fox Duelli) finds the English teacher playing Dungeons and Dragons with high schooler and Dungeon Master Chuck (freshman John Turelli). Duelli and Turelli were at their best in this fast-paced whirlwind of comedic innuendo, and when Myers broke in the entire theater erupted in gales of laughter. Not all the jokes landed perfectly, and a few got old over the course of the play, but for the most part playwright Qui Nguyen was right on target.

Corey Holmer
The heads of The Tiamat † after the conclusion of the show. Prop design was a collaborative effort between Stage Crew and Art Club.

And there were the deeper elements that one did not analyze but feel. Myers and Stanley crafted a heartwarming friendship as their characters grew closer over the course of the adventure, the image of Mack’s character dying in Stanley’s arms almost moved my cold and jaded soul to tears, and even Boyle’s comedic failures started to draw some sympathy.

I was very impressed that the cast and crew of “She Kills Monsters” successfully prepared the play in a mere six weeks. Lighting, sound, and set design (props to Art Club on the dragon heads) were on point, and the use of the Ringwraiths motif from “The Lord of the Rings” in the final battle with The Tiamat added a perfect atmosphere of tension and symbolic weight as Myers struck down the wraiths that had tormented her sister in life.

Some of the scene transitions seemed to dangle. A handful of lines felt wooden. It seemed odd that a teenager was openly hitting on an English teacher at his high school, and there were other interactions that were a tad on the awkward side — but dynamite nonetheless. All that said, however, the play’s comedic events and tragic backstory blended into one another seamlessly and made the overall experience feel more whole, like the whirlwind of human thought.

I was never prouder to be a nerd than when I left the DMT Saturday night.”

“She Kills Monsters” was not perfect, but it was somehow assembled in only a month and a half to splendid results. It was another great performance from Director John Wanninger and the entire Theater community at LFHS, and a promising showing from the newest members of that community.

 

The next school play, “Love/Sick,” will be an all-school production presented on February 6, 7, and 8 at 7 pm in the David Miller Theater. Four actors from “She Kills Monsters” — John Turelli, Ruby Stockton, Sarah Mack, and Amelia Myers — are slated to perform alongside several others.

For a deeper analysis of the play’s central message — the treatment of homosexuals in American society — see Laine Gamrath’s Best of SNO-winning column.