“She Kills Monsters” tackles identity, fantasy

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Eric Hang

Cast members rehearse one of the play’s fight scenes.

Abigail Poag and Sophie Caldwell

Contrasting horned orcs with themes of love and identity, “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, blurs the line between fantasy and reality as characters move between the real world and their Dungeons and Dragons alter-egos.

Two years after her younger sister Tilly (senior Katy Shafer) died in a car accident, Agnes (senior Nicole VerMeulen), a 24-year-old English teacher, stumbles across a D&D module in Tilly’s room. While the sister’s relationship was rocky when Tilly was alive, the D&D module gives Agnes a look into the life of her sister, whom she discovers she never really knew.

“The real Tilly is shown more in her Dungeons and Dragons than it is in real life,” Shafer said. “You can see that she builds these walls up. She’s really very confident.”

As a 15-year-old, Tilly escaped into the Dungeons and Dragons world she created, able to express herself there in a way she never could in real life. Tilly was a closeted lesbian, and never felt safe expressing her identity in the real world, where high school bullies prevented her from being herself.

“I remember learning we were doing ‘She Kills,’ and I was so shocked,” Shafer said. “It is such a relevant play that has issues we’re dealing with today.”

With a vibrant cast of monsters and beasts, “She Kills Monsters” features demon queen Lilith Morningstar (senior Mei Leebron), Kalliope Darkwalker (senior Grace Vincent), former demon lord of the underworld Orcas (senior Frank Willey) and a host of other weapon-wielding creatures.

Despite tackling solemn issues, the play also includes lighter, more humorous moments. The actors frequently engage in stage-combat, which made rehearsals difficult yet entertaining.

“The cast is always laughing, and [the director] Ms. Cordes laughs along with us,” Willey said. “It’s been really fun, and it’s a funny show.”

Willey plays Orcas as well as high school student Ronnie, a friend of Tilly’s. Because many of the actors play multiple roles, requiring quick costume changes, the play remains fast-paced.

“There are a lot of quick costume changes, and the play moves back and forth very quickly,” Leebron said. 

Leebron, who has never acted, decided to audition for “She Kills” on a whim after returning from a year abroad in China.

“I just auditioned for fun, because I was like, ‘oh why not,’” Leebron said. “I didn’t think I would get a part.”

Although a play about D&D may not seem universally relatable, “She Kills” nevertheless stays relevant to current issues and real people.

“I feel like this is changing St. John’s history because we’re moving from traditional to modern, and that switch is really nice,” Shafer said.

“She Kills Monsters,” will be performed in the Lowe Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 and 11.