On Thursday February 25th 2016, I attended the preview performance of She Kills Monsters presented by Simply Theatre and if you take anything away from my review it is this:
Go see She Kills Monsters.
This story follows Agnes Evans playing through a game of Dungeons and Dragons in a desperate attempt to learn more about her recently deceased sister. On the way, she gets to know her sister’s closest friends, deals head-on with heartache and loss, and ultimately becomes a better friend to her dead sister than she was to her in life. It sounds heartwarming and dramatic.
Oh, did I mention, there’s dragons, gelatinous blobs, and evil cheerleaders?
Through this emotional journey, we’re met with gut-wrenching laughter and spit-take-worthy dialogue that made me forget all my troubles for 2 hours. From the opening narration I was given the distinct impression that this show is for everyone who wants to embrace their inner (or outer) geek. Yes, there is a lot of nerd talk especially pertaining to D&D that I worried would take away from the enjoyment of the show but I promise it doesn’t. Use context clues and come with an open mind and you’ll love every single moment.
I haven’t had the privilege of working with director Dale Hirlehey on a show but everything I’ve ever seen from him (especially Twelve Angry Men from Simply Theatre’s 2014/15 Season) has shown incredible understanding and a great sense of humor which is exactly what you need with a show containing such sensitive and outrageous material.
And before we go any further, I have to give…props… to Kristine Astop, props master extraordinaire for her astounding design. Trust me, when you see the dragons, you will understand why I am so in love with the props for this show. Such an excellent use of an empty stage.
At the risk of sounding too much like a gushing fluff piece, the cast was so well-chosen. It is not easy to take on a role like cannibalistic demon princess, or washed up demon overlord, or saucy guidance counselor (though I suspect the role was practically written with Shandra McQueen in mind…by award-winning writer Qui Nguyen in 2011); all of these actors tackled these parts with such precision, such energy. I couldn’t look away if I tried.
Erika Rogstad’s portrayal of the ass-kicking, recently dead, fifteen year old Tilly Evans was so strong – and her sword work was well-rehearsed. Her sister Agnes, played by Gillian Klassen, was an excellent counter to her sister’s tall, warrior stance and I loved watching her grow with each scene. Riley Galarneau, as always, gives a masterfully comedic performance, as does Josh Bailey, the tension-breaking comedic relief who constantly made me giggle by just being on stage. Of course major props go to the ladies of the cast (Tanis Laatsch, Amy Tollefson, Chelsea Wellman, and Samantha Carson) who kicked major ass and looked so... attractive while doing it. I think the exact words from the man sitting beside me were “nugggunfff”. But in all honesty, I think the arm fight scene between the ladies is my favourite fight; and there are a lot of fights. Philp Frias and Steven Morton round out the cast of just astounding actors who put on their capes and elf ears to bring this story to life.
I cannot stress enough just how much I loved this show. Technical issues aside, which can be attributed to a preview performance, I was laughing and quoting the show all the way home and I can’t wait to see this show again later in the run.
You can buy your tickets at www.simplytheatre.ca but don’t wait too long; this show runs from February 26th to March 5th at the Joyce Doolittle Theatre.