My Thoughts on She Kills Monsters
Updated: 2 days ago
This is a review of She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms, by Qui Nguyen.
(THEDAVINCI-CHARLOTTESVILLE) - SHE KILLS MONSTERS is a play about a girl named Agnes discovering her deceased sister, Tilly, through a D&D campaign she had written. As a whole, the play is inaccurate - many aspects don’t make sense. This is also a review of a rewrite of the play made in 2019/20 that changed a few things to make the play suitable for an online production and more appropriate for a high school audience. *Minor spoilers for the play ahead.*
The play is OK, the writing is stellar and the characters are interesting, but a couple of them are just not fun to read about and most characters end at the same place they started. Agnes is annoying at best (and mean at her worst), unable to deal with situations peacefully and has very little character development of her own throughout the story. Tilly makes no sense, but when you look past that she is an interesting character with an interesting dynamic. Tilly and Agnes’ relationship is where all of their characterization and development surfaces. You could take any scene and point it back to the relationship, and we don’t get much information about either character other than for each other. Chuck is a great character for comedic effect, but the play often forgets to depict aspects of him through the other characters that he is playing (Chuck is the Dungeon Master - he runs the adventure and pretends to be all the characters in it). Kaliope is pretty underutilized and essentially a background character, and we learn very little about her. Lilith is important, but forgotten about after her purpose as a romantic interest is served. Orcus is another hilarious character, but is again shoved aside after his duty is fulfilled. Miles and Vera are Agnes’s moral compasses and serve the purpose of giving Agnes a shoulder to cry on. Most of the minor characters are just there for a scene or a specific line, so I don’t have any comments on them.
I have mixed feelings about this play. On one hand, the depiction of D&D is horrendous and the climax is disappointing (to say the least). On the other hand I found myself enjoying more individual scenes than not. Additionally, a lot of the characters are very fun to read and watch, but the last scene really left a bad taste in my mouth.
As someone who plays D&D, I hate how it is portrayed in SHE KILLS MONSTERS. This play could have been a good way to show people that D&D stereotypes don’t have to be true. It does a little of that, mainly disproving that only “geeks'' can play D&D. But it doesn’t disprove things like the following: D&D is always overly sexual, people who play D&D are bullied, or that it is always the typical “hero saves the princess” story. The rewrite had a chance to help out with some of these, but change would be difficult and could affect key plot points.
I have no problem with Tilly being bullied (for the plot to work) but every member of her party has some aspect about them that makes it seem like they could be targeted (Ronnie says “his mind is without a filter”, Kelly has CP, Chuck is fat, Lily is gay, Tilly is gay, and they all play D&D). The playwright could have made a group that at least wasn’t so traditionally the target of bullying in typical high school dramas. The in-real-life scenes have the best characters, but anger me at the same time. For example, Agnes is insufferable for a fair portion of the play.
Miles and Vera are my favorite characters as they are in the right and lead Agnes towards the right direction. Orcus is a great character for comic effect because he just doesn't care about anything. Tilly is flawless, and not in a good way. She is written ignoring and never fixing her flaws.
I felt like the playwright was forcing Agnes to conform to Tilly rather than them both fixing their relationship together. Tilly is also dead, so she can’t fix her side of the relationship, but we expressly have a plot point where Tilly comes back in real life (even without Chuck acting her out in a game). Why did she not try to repair things with Agnes? It’s a one-sided redemption where both sides need reparation.
One change I would make to improve the twist: Instead of having Tillius cast Magic Missile in scene 8, have her cast Eldritch Blast. That would cater to the D&D fans a bit better as it is a lesser known spell to the public, but if you have ever played D&D you know what it is. It would immediately make the scene more suspicious, as to D&D fans, they know Eldritch Blast is a Warlock spell, not a Paladin spell, and to the common audience member the word ‘Eldritch’ automatically puts you on edge.
The story itself is enjoyable, and the concept is cool, but the details tear too many holes in it for me to enjoy the play as a whole. D&D is also portrayed horribly inaccurately and dumbed down. This is a play about D&D that caters to non-D&D fans more than D&D fans. I would not recommend this play to D&D players, as throughout the play they will be unable to think of anything but the problems (as was my experience). If you do not mind the problems with how the game is portrayed, I would recommend the play as the story is good and the characters are fun - albeit not well developed. If you want an accurate D&D story though, don’t look here.