Encore Michigan

ESR’s ‘She Kills Monsters’ surprises with wit and humor

Review September 15, 2019 Paula Bradley

PORT HURON, Mich.–Enter Stage Right is staging a production of She Kills Monsters at The Citadel in Port Huron, under the direction of Scott Joseph, that may defy a theatre-goers initial evaluation, if that evaluation is based solely on a one or two sentence description of the show. 

The script by Qui Nguyen utilizes a framing device involving a young woman—Agnes—who discovers a notebook left behind by her deceased younger sister, Tilly.  Yes, it is safe to assume that Agnes discovers some things about Tilly that she never suspected. 

The notebook happens to be filled with Tilly’s Dungeons and Dragons role playing adventures. Now,  some potential viewers might stop right there and decide this show is not for them;  But I’m here to tell you that a knowledge or appreciation of role-playing games is not at all necessary to thoroughly enjoy this show. And even though that framing device might paint it as serious or gloomy, it is anything but. This show is filled with wit, sarcasm, funny practical effects, fantasy fighting, and a talented cast that brings it all home with great timing and delivery.

Jamie Leslie plays the rather mainstream older sister Agnes, and Jaclyn Radford plays the Tilly that Agnes barely knew.  When Agnes finds the notebook after Tilly’s death, she sees it as a way to posthumously connect with her younger sister. She starts by contacting Chuck (Gonzo Gonzales), a name from the notebook, and he agrees to take Agnes step by step through Tilly’s D&D adventure.

And so we meet a wide variety of fantasy characters who are evil yet snarky, geeky yet fascinating. And they wear pretty cool costumes (Kaylee Loxton). Imagine a sexy she-demon (Madison Roush), a stoic and wise rainbow elf (Stacey Jowett), an evil lord who gave up ruling the underworld to watch “must see TV” (Jake  Buckley). This gang, on a mission to save Tilly’s lost soul, is nearly thwarted at every turn by a series of evil opponents—a deceivingly delicate fairy (Emilee Lillian Caughel), a squad of devil cheerleaders (Rachel Kearney and Leah Gray). And that is just on the way to the ultimate challenge—defeating a five headed dragon.

In between Agnes’ D&D sessions with Chuck, she relies on her friend Vera (Avery Bolt), a tactless  school guidance counselor, to help her sort things out.   Things hit a snag when Agnes’ boyfriend Miles (Owen McIntyre) finds Chuck in her house and gets the totally wrong idea. But Agnes is determined to go through with the adventure; through it she discovers that Tilly, who was somewhat nerdy and awkward in real life, had created a world where she could be strong, confident and heroic.

This show will make audiences laugh in a variety of ways: snarky and campy humor, mixed messages, “exploding” body parts, plenty of 1990s pop culture references, even a dance-off.  The performances that elicit the most laughs are Gonzales as Chuck, and Buckley as Orcus, both of whom manifest a combination of nerd and wise-cracker.

And because we are exploring a fantasy role-playing world, there’s also a lot of fighting; the combat choreography (Stacey Jowett) never gets boring, avoiding the pitfalls of repetition and awkward timing.

There is plenty of salty language and humor, and some brief adult situations, so use judgment about bringing little ones.She Kills Monsters is not the kind of show that will change your life.  It is, however, a whole lot of laugh-out-loud fun, and we all need that in our lives.  Check it o