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Miami University: SHE KILLS MONSTERS is a Well-Designed Quest

Review by Liz Eichler of “She Kills Monsters”: Miami University Theatre

Miami University Department of Theatre selected a great production for college students to sink their teeth into, and they deliver high skills in a well-designed and executed production.

Set in 1995 “in a time before FaceBook,” “She Kills Monsters” was written in 2012 by Qui Nguyen. It is a quest for Agnes (Abby Chafe) who seeks the “lost soul” of her significantly younger sister, Tilly, killed in a car crash. She comes across her Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and with the help of a high school aged expert, Chuck, Agnes dives into this world, understanding her sister and herself.  

You needn’t know anything about D & D or role-playing games (RPG’s). You could substitute any activity that one sibling is absorbed by, and the other one has no idea WHY they do that (gaming, sports, ballet, music, etc.) The sisters are distanced by age and different personalities. The desire to know exactly what she lost has Agnes walking an imaginative mile in Tilly’s shoes (trudging up the Mountain of Steepness and the River of Wetness…).  She meets a variety of friends and foes in this semi-autobiographical game and makes discoveries about the game’s “awesomeness.”

Directed by Bridget Leak, the show is imaginative and active.  The costumes (student Madison Kollig) are colorful and movable. The clothing, hair, prosthetics and makeup add a professional level to this production. The lead characters show a real understanding of the genre and the minor characters are also fully conceived and executed.  The fight scenes (Jonathan Baca) are energetic, and the dance battle is super fun.  The set (Gion DeFrancesco) is a mountain with a misty cavity in the center, eventually reflecting more of Tilly. Set pieces raise and lower, and well-proportioned props are tossed on stage and off.  Very exciting larger-than-life puppetry (Melanie Mortimore) and excellent lighting (Marly Wooster) demonstrate Miami’s strength in technical theatre and design.

Tilly is strong and brave, yet still fragile, as played by Maddy Shilts. Agnes is a “normal” (read boring) 25-year-old woman, and Abby Chafe gives her a good character arc as we see her developing more self-confidence. Baxter Whitehead is quite funny as Chuck, the Dungeon Master. Jack Troiano is a well-meaning boyfriend.  Steve (Sam Adams) is a great bit of comic relief. Kaliope (Olivia Gorom) and Lillith (Molly Boozel) have the moves for with their oversized weapons. Orcus (Jacob Sloan) is “the resident horny dude”.  Evil cheerleaders Tina (Eleanor Alger) and Gabby (Megan Hayes) have the perfect vocal fry to make your skin crawl.

Miami has a strong dramaturgy program.  There’s plenty to read in the lobby and in the program about the background of the show, and how these Gen Zers researched the 90s. (!) No vocal coach is listed, yet many of the students could work on diction and projection, as they often had to compete with the fun 90’s music interspersed between the scenes.

“She Kills Monsters” played November 20-24 at Miami University’s Gates-Abegglen Theatre.  Coming up next is “The Wolves” March 11-15. For more contact miamioh.edu/theatre.