Art review: "She Kills Monsters"

Jay Weitz, Columbus Alive

"In the time before Facebook…" begins Qui Nguyen's "She Kills Monsters." So take a "Quantum Leap" back to the mid-1990s, load Beck's "Loser" into the CD player, and sit back while Available Light Theatre takes you there.

In her mid-20s, average Agnes Evans (Krista Lively Stauffer) has just lost her entire family in an auto accident, including the 15-year-old sister she had mostly ignored. Anything-but-average Tilly (Kim Martin) had been an avid Dungeons and Dragons gamer, so when Agnes discovers the D&D notebook Tilly left behind, she takes the opportunity to get to know her late sister better. With the help of Dungeon Master Chuck (Mark Hale, Jr.), Agnes discovers not merely the wish-fulfilling fantasy realm called Newlandia that Tilly had constructed, but also parts of Tilly's real world that had inspired it.

In her campaign against the dragon Tiamat, Tilly has gathered a party of adventurers who immediately rub Agnes the wrong way: leather-clad dominatrix Lilith (Laura Crone), elfish super model Kaliope (Allison Brogan), and slacker Overlord of the Underworld Orcus (Jordan Fehr). By the time one of the "forces of evil on a bozo nightmare" they must defeat to reach Tiamat turns out to be Agnes' own boyfriend Miles (Adam Humphrey) as a mass of demonic Jell-O, big sister has realized that little sister had more in mind than game playing.

Even succubi and shameless scene-stealers Gabbi (Emma Lou Andrews) and Tina (Whitney Thomas Eads), and the hapless Steve (Daniel Shtivelberg), must bow to costume designer Julia Ferreri and scenic designer Brad Steinmetz for their epic contributions.

Nguyen's use of D&D as a metaphorical means for Tilly's self-revelation and Agnes' self-exploration is an intriguing notion that director Ian Short keeps well in hand. Written in 2011, "She Kills Monsters" appeals to the gamer geek in many of us and the lost soul in all of us.

Riffe Center, Studio Two Theatre

77 S. High St., Downtown

Through Saturday, Dec. 20