Grieving and Dragon-Slaying

11/18/2011 9:00 AM |

She Kills Monsters
Written by Qui Nguyen
Directed by Robert Ross Parker

"Forged by the hands of nerds, crafted in the minds of geeks," Dungeons and Dragons has been a favored escape route for downtrodden youths facing mind-numbing tedium for almost forty years. Agnes (Satomi Blair), a very average young high school teacher in the Midwest, first encounters the game when she learns that her "totally weird" younger sister Tilly (Allison Buck), a Dungeon Master of the rarest kind—"without fear, prejudice, or a penis,"—has died in a car accident. They were never that close, their relationship strained over the last few years, and all Agnes has left of her sister is a D&D module she had recently crafted. Agnes is suddenly filled with regret, though it comes off with a slight air of flippancy. Qui Nguyen's new heroic mock-epic She Kills Monsters (at the Flea Theater through December 23), traces Agnes's journey through Tilly's module—discovering her sister and herself. This mythical plot might be a bit worn, but the performance is totally enjoyable if you're into this kind of thing—a very important caveat.

"Agnes the Ass-hatted," and her sister's friends—"Chuck the big dick’d" (Jack Corcoran), "Ronnie the Stoner," (Raul Sigmund Julia) "Kelly the not-so-good-legged," (Megha Nabe) and "Lily the Closeted" (Margaret Odette)—sally forth along Tilly's scripted mystical voyage, leaving the generic normalcy of 1995 Ohio behind. (They retain its Smashing Pumpkins soundtrack for transitions between scenes.) Narrated by Nicky Schmidlein with a tongue-in-cheek voice, much of the performance sounds like a Lord of Rings parody. Of the two tensions sure to be resolved, Agnes's conflicts with her sister and her live-in boyfriend, the latter proves more pedestrian. Tilly, it turns out, kept an intimate secret her whole life. Exposition is sparse and neither conflict feels adequately developed. It's very clear what's going on; it's just not very obvious why we should care. Then again, here we run the risk of taking too seriously what should be a light-hearted spoof. As David Valentine's dragon puppet battle finale reminds, it's a marvel just to see what a bunch of nerds can do with a bit of imagination, a fog machine and a strobe light.

(Photo: Joan Marcus)