It’s hard to believe that “Dungeons and Dragons” has been around for nearly 40 years. What’s even more incredible is the people that play the game. A whole new reality awaits for those who play and that’s what Agnes Evans discovers as she tries to understand her dead sister.
Recently, the Theater and Arts Department at Suny New Paltz adapted OBIE Award-winning playwright, Qui Nguyen’s play “She Kills Monsters” as the first production for the 2020 season. Within this interactive performance, Nguyen tells the story of Agnes Evans, a girl whose life takes a drastic turn when her parents and younger sister, Tilly, are killed in a car accident. Unfortunately, Agnes’s relationship with her sister was already fragile as Agnes was into more “practical things” while Tilly was a typical geek girl with a fondness for “Dungeons and Dragons”. As Agnes picks up the remaining fragments, she discovers a notebook with a module of a D&D map created by her deceased sister. In order to understand her dead sister, Agnes decides to play D&D, a choice that causes reality and fantasy to collide. Within this abnormal quest, Agnes discovers how disconnected she was with her sister.
A majority of Qui Nguyen’s works are situated in popular culture and multimedia as exemplified by Krunk Fu Battle Battle, and the critically acclaimed Vampire Cowboys productions of Alice in Slasherland. SUNY New Paltz took the simplistic initiative by creating a plain white-checkered stage marked with map sketches. It wasn’t a matter that the Theater and Arts department was lacking in resources. Rather, using limited resources sparked creativity whether using stuffed dragons, or their very own Hugo mascot embodying the many monsters Agnes encounters. Embedded within fantasy and storytelling, She Kills Monsters is a commentary on virtual reality and societal complications by elaborating and exaggerating social issues of misogyny and homophobia. So much attention was given to the characters that reflected adversity and solitude. The underlying theme of this production stressed the importance of relationships, which is expressed through Agnes’s lament as she comes to terms with her past mistakes. For me, the biggest lesson is that nothing is a guarantee. Relationships must be cherished. D&D players are humans and not freaks, despite people’s misconceptions. I’m not sure how other adaptations presented She Kills Monsters, but SUNY New Paltz’s interpretation spoke volumes to me. Sometimes being simple works best.