Eighties and Nineties nostalgia is big right now. Adults newish to marriage and mortgages and over the hump of deciding to spend the $10 in their wallet on laundry or beer are starting to daydream about simpler times. The re-emergence of overalls as a viable fashion choice, summer tours by Weezer and the Pixies, and Stranger Things are satisfying those fantasies. So, too, is She Kills Monsters, the pleasurable play Baltimore’s Green Globe Theatre is presenting through April 14.
Set in 1995, She Kills Monsters is littered with ’90s pop culture references, with a story framed around the nerdtastic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Clever, thoughtful touches like the superb costumes by Joanna Para (think combat boots, flannel and a “Misfits” vest) and excellent prop designs by Glen Haupt (weapons are made from ’90s artifacts like a Nintendo remote and Legos) effectively set the time and place.
In this world of yesteryear is Agnes (Nicki Seibert), an “average” 24-year-old, who was never close with her eccentric younger sister, Tilly (Linda Roby). Agnes finds a journal with a Dungeons & Dragons quest written by 16-year-old Tilly, who died in a car accident that also claimed their parents two years before. In an effort to come to terms with Tilly’s death, Agnes decides to enlist a teenage geek Dungeon Master to take her into her sister’s world.
Tilly comes to life as Tillius the Paladin, and the sisters get closer through role-played conversations. Playwright Qui Nguyen’s script is most satisfying when focusing on the sisters’ lessening estrangement and the celebration of geek culture. The fantasy world of Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons quest is populated with adventurers and monsters who have real-life counterparts at her old high school, where Agnes is an English teacher. We meet both fantasy and real-life characters throughout the play.
Seibert and Roby give serviceable performances as the leads, although more projection, emotionally and vocally, by Seibert would be helpful. Standout performances by supporting actors and energetic direction by Jesse Marciniak keep Green Globe’s production of She Kills Monsters moving at a brisk pace.
The nerds/adventurers are some of the most endearing characters in the show. Jeff Miller brings a delightful, delusional confidence to geeky Dungeon Master Chuck. Lianna Brizzi shines as strong and sultry D&D dominatrix Lilith and conflicted teen Lily. Rebecca Clendaniel as elf Kaliope and Sam O’Farrell as slacker demon Orcus have comedic moments as the rest of Tilly and Agnes’ adventure squad.
Green Globe employs Dramaturg James Ruth to focus on D&D details (Ruth says in his bio he’s “spent over 1000 hours at the D&D table, and over 2.6 million minutes in the 1990s”). Practitioners of D&D will most likely appreciate this attention to detail. Having some basic familiarity with Dungeons & Dragons would help (even if it’s just having your date explain to you what D&D entails) nubes understand the story better.
The play is more than just a fun depiction of a role-playing quest, though. She Kills Monsters is enjoyable because of what is at the heart of the parallel fantasy life for its outsider teens and grieving Agnes – acceptance.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission