In a time before Facebook, Worlds of Warcraft, and Massive Multiplayer Online RPG, there once existed a simple game. And in a time of theatrical chaos, political uproar, and global warming, there currently exists an environmentally sound theatre company. Green Globe Theatre is currently producing Qui Nguyen’s She Kills Monsters. Forged by the hands of theatre nerds, crafted in the minds of Director Jess Marciniak, and so advanced in its advanciness that it would take two whole weekends of production to fully express all of its mighty geekery, She Kills Monsters is epic; She Kills Monsters is emotional; She Kills Monsters is a powerhouse script with a rock-star cast and an extraordinary creative team making theatrical dreams come true right here in Charm City. Here in the land of Baltimore during the year of 2018 Marciniak, cast, and crew set forth on an adventure so great that it simply must be seen to be believed.
A level-20 Set & Lighting Designer with +2 Creativity, Hayden Muller has crafted a multi-purpose, fully mobile set. Muller’s scenic artistry masterfully interweaves a gamer’s dream— he’s literally built a game cube that spins to reveal multiple surfaces, which pose as multiple scenic settings, and just looks damn cool— and structural functionality. The adventure’s forest and the mystic cave of mysticism are fantastical and awe-inspiring, especially the cave face, which is covered in every tech’s nightmare: a sparkling interface of glitter. Muller incorporates other ingenious nods to the play’s game based inspiration across the set, like the inclusion of D8s, split upright into rock-like formations. Muller is also responsible for the show’s lighting design. Muller rolls the dice: colors are effectively utilized!
A level-42 Costume Master with +3 extravagance factor and a +1 ingenuity, Joanna Para creates the realm of She Kills Monsters with her rich sartorial selection. There are black pleather and fishnets for the in-game characters, as well as cloaks and corsets and super tawdry-looking cheerleader suits for the succubae demons. But Para’s game-winning feature in this production is her Bugbear mask and claws. Are they bugs? Are they bears? Para has masterfully fabricated this creation based around the inexperience of Agnes-the-Asshatted (the narrative character of the story who is woefully bereft in the D&D gaming world) and created true enchanted magic with these costume pieces.
Watch Out! A shape-shifter is among the creative team here at Green Globe’s She Kills Monsters. Sam O’Farrell, a level-19 Sound Designer morphs into a Level-69 Actor! When he’s not playing Orcus the dork demon of the underworld, he’s providing strong backing tracks and sound loops, which fit within the realm of believable probability for an early 90’s gamer’s world, many of which are midi-based and inspired. O’Farrell’s acting skills are on par with that of the cast, he floats well within the world that Marciniak has created out of Qui Nguyen’s script. Passably dorktastic, dorkily passive, and all-round adorkable, O’Farrell is a fine addition to the performance cast.
Rarely if ever are the enigmatic and mystical entities of Stage Manager and Dramaturg discussed in write-ups; they are the unsung heroes that move the production along, often the left and right hand of the Director. A level-99 Stage Manager and level-103 Dramaturg, Mavonte Johnson and James Ruth, respectively, move the production along with great expedience, through quick changes in both costume and scene as well as give them guidance on all the finer nuances of Dungeons and Dragons. Both work exceptionally well with Director Jesse Marciniak to create an adventurous and chaotically-good experience for both performer and audience.
A level-64 Director with +2 insanity and -3 sleep-factor, Jesse Marciniak has fully conceptualized Nguyen’s work and allows for the playwright’s powerful diversified voices to resonate soundly throughout the production. There is a smoothness to the flow of scenes, transitioning from inside the adventure out into reality. Marciniak makes curious and intriguing use of his double-casting options as well. His utilization of a deep, booming British elderly gentleman’s voice for the narration at the beginning and end of the show is a highly entertaining and ultimately hilarious move which really sets the atmosphere for the production.
Working together as an ensemble, this cast of ten creates memorable and moving moments all throughout the production, working hard to make the emotional scenes stand out among the comically humorous ones. The cast makes fine work out of all of the intense fight choreography (crafted by Matty Montes), much of which happens quickly and in perfect sync with Sound Designer Sam O’Farrell’s catchy, edgy, and adventurous tunes. Each performer finds their niche and settles into the character readily— even when their primary character only exists in reality, and respectively when they only exist in the adventure world.
The most noticeable and heartfelt portrayal in the production comes from the surprisingly interesting character of Chuck, aka DM Biggs. Played with grace and reverence by Jeff Miller, this dual-purpose character is more than just a guiding force in Agnes’ adventure. Miller’s character is perpetually present on the stage (as a DM would be during any Dungeons & Dragons adventure) and watching his subtle background facial expressions as he observes the interactions between Agnes and the fictitious characters is at times harrowing, and plucks hard at the heartstrings. Everything about the reality of the situation, which at its core is merely a person trying to connect with a loved one no longer with them, is expressed beautifully through Miller’s silent facial responses, which have to be intentionally observed to be discovered. This extra layer of information is like a hidden bonus in any adventurer’s quest; this along is worth watching, in addition to all of the other cool things happening in the show.
A level-1 NEWB, Agnes the Ass-Hatted is going to try hard like hell to find a common thread for her late sister, Tilly, inside this Dungeons and Dragons experience. Played with superb emotional intellect by Nicki Seibert, this character exists outside of the fantasy realm in a deeply questionable reality of 1993. Seibert’s strongest suit is her emotional integrity and forwardness when it comes to presence of mind and spatial awareness. She makes subtle and yet simultaneously bold decisions about where her character is at all times, mentally and physically, in relation to the other characters and the situation unfolding around here. There is a striking conviviality about the way she presents Agnes as well, especially when the emotionally overwhelming tidal waves crash down upon her.
Playing the moody, broody, and almost sullenly stereotypical misunderstood teenager Tilly, Linda Roby brings all of those character attributes to the forefront of her portrayal with ready, relatable ease. There is a moodiness in her strident gait, especially when she first appears on the scene, and a temperament about her overall interactions with Agnes that fully illustrates the tempestuous nature of their non-existent sororal relationship. Her physical posture often belays her attitude without question; Roby wears Tilly like a second skin, like an avatar, and keeps the audience invested in her half of the story as Agnes discovers it by way of the homespun module.
Partnered and paired in the ‘party’, are Lilith and Kaliope, respectively played by Lianna Brizzi and Rebecca Clendaniel. Brizzi is a scream, even if her attempt at a British accent is somewhat muddled, and really engages her Lilith character wholeheartedly. The permanency of her ‘resting-bitch-face’ expression, with a hard-set stare, grimacing mouth, and dead eyes is a proper doppelganger of any World of Warcraft character creation screen. Creating a surprisingly clean and astonishing dichotomy between her portrayal of Lilith and her portrayal of Lily— the real life individual whom inspired Lilith— Brizzi showcases her adept capabilities when switching between personas. Rebecca Clendaniel is of a similar nature, though there is little emotional difference to be discovered between Kaliope and Kelly, there is an astonishing differentiation factor between the way she approaches each. What is most impressive about Clendaniel as Kaliope is the way she speaks as if she possesses no emotional depth— modeling herself elven— and this creates for a fascinating interplay with the other characters.
In a ferocious head-to-head battle for King of the Dorks, Jacob Reese— as boyfriend Miles— and Christopher Hamilton— as nerdy Steve— go all-in and totally hardcore to win this title. Reese, who is honest and still hilarious in his portrayal of Miles really finds the subtleties in his character’s humors. When he sits down with the Viking helmet on his head, it’s uncontrollably laughable. (Possibly also the moment when he’s a gelatinous cube…but that’s a level-8 spoiler!) Hamilton, whose Steve-character keeps getting killed (that’s not so much a level-8 spoiler…) provides pithy comic relief. His shining moment is when he storms out of Miss Martin’s office, stomping off in a huff and saying “you both suck!”
Playing the suckity high school guidance counselor Miss Vera Martin (and doubling up as Evil Gabi and The Beholder) Brandi Elizabeth Brown fits well into the groove that Marciniak has created for the performers in this show. Brown, whose Vera character is simply absurd in her practices, finds her footing in each of the roles, especially as Evil Gabi, playing opposite Evil Tina (played by Victoria Cooke.) Doubling up as Farrah the faerie…but we use that word loosely…Cooke finds her own ways to put her badass on display. She, like Cooke, is a fine addition to the cast.
The ultimate gamer’s adventure turned theatrical stage show, the ultimate theatrical stage show turned gamer’s adventure, She Kills Monsters is well worth investing in, you don’t have to roll a D12 to decide the outcome of that!
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes with one intermission
She Kills Monsters plays through April 14, 2018 at The Green Globe Theatre in residence at Breath of God Lutheran Church— 141 S. Clinton Street in the heart of Highlandtown of Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available at the door or for purchase in advance online.