Saturday, March 7, 2015. 6:21 PM. Archer’s Blackbox Theatre. I’m sitting in one of those infamous purple chairs, second row in the center section.
Around me, the room is abuzz with excitement about the imminent performance. In front of me, the stage is set like board game — the ground is painted a checkered pattern, the walls with murals painted with glow in the dark paint to highlight details. The air is thick with smoke and angst-y 90’s music. The lights dim, a hush falls over the crowd. The play is starting: “She Kills Monsters.”
The story can be summed up in about three words: lesbians, dragons and roleplaying.
I’m only (kind of) kidding, of course. “She Kills Monsters” follows the story of Agnes Evans, played by Olivia Bagg ’15, as she enters the world of role-playing in order to get to know her sister, Tilly, double-casted to both Zoe Webb-Mack ‘18 and Talia Natoli ‘17, whose character passed away in a car accident.
Her quest? To retrieve Tillius’ lost soul with the help of Chuck, Lilith, and Kaliope, played masterfully by Haley Cohen ’16, Anika Ramlo ’17, Izzy Malina ‘16 and Dani Beauregard ‘18, respectively.
Although they are introduced to us as magical characters, it is soon made clear that the world of “Newlandia” is meant to reflect how Tilly experienced the real world during her life, meaning that each character in the game is a reflection of a real-life counterpart, adding new depth to the story.
The show is poignant, relatable and if nothing else, absolutely hilarious, with witty punch lines and sharp timing.
“She Kills Monsters” was quite possibly the funniest Archer production I have seen in my seven years here. It has all the charm, wit and bite of a 1990’s sitcom (which when compared to my binge-watching of “Friends” on weekends, probably explains why I liked it so much).
Bagg was on fire throughout the entire show, playing the role of Agnes seamlessly. Even when a prop fell apart in her hands, she was able to cover it without missing a beat, making it seem scripted. Bagg’s character development was especially impressive as the story went on, which was subtle, but highly effective.
Cohen did a particularly impressive job of portraying the awkward, self-conscious, Dungeons and Dragons guru in a way that was self-deprecating, but oddly relatable. The ever-sarcastic and lazy Orcus, played by Moncada and Evans-Katz, was greatly appreciated by all the second-semester seniors in the audience (or at least, by this second-semester senior in particular).
I would be doing a disservice to the show if I did not mention one aspect of it in particular: Tilly’s coming out, which happens when Agnes almost walks in on Tillius and Lilith kissing. The show covers almost all aspects of this predicament, from the sister struggling to accept something she doesn’t know, to a love between two individuals forbidden by the social norms of the time.
As someone who struggled with her own sexuality at roughly the same age, I found this to be almost painfully relatable, and Webb-Mack and Ramlo played the narrative beautifully.
In the play’s “real world,” Auveen Dezgaran ’15 and Gabby Weltman ’17 took the roles of Miles and Vera, Agnes’ (somewhat dysfunctional) voices of reason. There was no shortage of laughter from the audience when either of them were on stage.
The lighting of the show was handled skillfully, with the timing of both giving it a particular depth, allowing the audience to jump in and out of story lines with ease.
The sound design was done quite excellently as well, with everything from the actual sound effects to the transitional music adding to the feel of the production.
I had the pleasure of attending the show’s closing night, which meant that I got to see younger members of the cast and crew give speeches to honor the seniors on their last theatre production at Archer. Needless to say, eyes got teary pretty quickly, but laughs still abounded.
“It was amazing to work with such a talented cast and watch them grow over the course of the show,” Assistant Stage Manager Amanda Mihalke ’15 said.
Okay, so I wasn’t so off with the whole “lesbians, dragons, and roleplaying” thing, but I may have oversimplified slightly.
“She Kills Monsters” is, in its essence, about girls finding strength within themselves and acknowledging the power they have to be who they want to be. With strong feminist themes and a truly dynamite cast and production, I found this particular performance resonated with Archer’s ideals and values.
I guess what it really boils down to is just how relevant the show is, especially to someone like me, who is going to have to find her own inner strength very soon, especially when leaving home.
Yes, I am nervous, but having a show like this as the last theatre production I saw seemed fitting. It reminds me of the fact that as a girl, I have the power to do anything and overcome any monsters that the game of life (as clichéd as it may sound) may set in my way, whether that be a new school, new friends, or even a gigantic, shape-shifting cube of poisonous jello in the shape of my boyfriend.