“D&D is not therapy.” That’s what Tilly, a charismatic tomboy played by Rebecca Hausman, tells her older sister Agnes in the hilarious and fluid Rorschach production of She Kills Monsters. To this sage advice, the comically skeptic Agnes, played by Maggie Erwin, gives a look like “No Shit” as she exchanges sword blade blows with a phalanx of phantasmagoric ghouls. Throughout She Kills Monsters, Agnes, sometimes reluctantly, reconnects with her deceased sister Tilly through a “module”, or fan-fiction D&D script, discovering her sibling’s spirit through the words and journey that Tilly designed.
At the beginning of She Kills Monsters, Agnes is a staid twenty-something Ohio high school teacher. With the help of an affable pupil Dungeon Master (Robert Pike), however, she enters headlong into her younger sister’s D&D fantasy, rolling dice and playing games of chance with orcs, beasts and dragons.
The characters and situations found within the module mirror that of actual life, and a complex dance takes place whereby the breathing reality of Agnes’ world informs and influences that of Tilly’s fictionalized realm. Though Agnes first scoffs at the game’s eccentricities and bizarre scenarios, the more she commits to the game’s fantasy, the more adept she becomes at mastering the hard facts of her own life, emerging at the play’s end victorious with her sword hilt-deep into a dragon of doubt.
SHE KILLS MONSTERS
Closes Sept 14, 2014
Rorschach Theatre at
Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Thursdays thru Sundays
Not all of She Kills Monsters’ battles are rhythmic, though they are highly choreographed. The swordplay on display, courtesy of fight choreographer Casey Kaleba, makes every character look like a nimble Spaniard avenging their father’s death. These battle scenes, played out over raised hexagonal platforms, give the show’s action an added dazzle as well as the perception that the characters are actually moving across the tiles of a board game.
Though Dungeons & Dragons has often been characterized as an escapist crutch for those struggling in gym class, She Kills Monsters channels the game’s traits of imagination and innovation allowing Agnes to come face to face with her and her sister’s demons and in the end prevailing mightily. The warning at the beginning of the play proves accurate: D&D is not therapy. It’s shock therapy.
She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen . Directed by Randy Baker . Featuring Claire Aniela, Tori Boutin, Louis E. Davis, Joshua Dick, Maggie Erwin, Amanda Forstrom, Rebecca Hausman, Emma Lou Hébert, Emily Kester, Robert Pike, Seth Rosenke and Rachel Viele . Lighting design: Brian S. Allard . Sound design: Palmer Hefferan . Props design: Britney Mongold . Set design: Ethan Sinnott . Costume design: Debra Kim Sivigny . Produced by Randy Baker and Jenny McConnell Frederick for Rorschach Theatre . Reviewed by Richard Barry.
The critics respond to She Kills Monsters
Richard Barry . DCTheatreScene “D&D is not therapy.” That’s what Tilly, a charismatic tomboy played by Rebecca Hausman, tells her older sister Agnes in the hilarious and fluid Rorschach production…
Jessica Sillers . DCFreelanceWriter With the booming popularity of comic book movies and shows like “The Big Bang Theory,” it can be easy to forget the days of ostracizing nerds.
Andrew Lapin . City Paper …exactly as fun as a show about young adults playing Dungeons & Dragons should be, and maybe that’s enough to ask for.
Alan Katz . BroadwayWorld Nostalgia used to be a disease. It’s where we get the word homesickness from.
Roger Calin . MDTheatreGuide It seems fitting that LARP and theater would eventually meet.
Peter Marks . Washington Post …Rorschach Theatre boldly goes where a generation of dungeon masters has gone before, to tell the story of a young woman who, in losing herself in a game, reclaims a long-gone loved one.
Michael Poandl . DCMetroTheaterArts She Kills Monsters is bad ass.