Ninety minutes in the 90s

“She Kills Monsters” is a geeky blast from the past.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

Raucous ripples of laughter reverberated through the Anne Simley Theatre on Friday, Nov. 9, the opening night of Hamline’s production of “She Kills Monsters,” written by Qui Nguyen and directed by Jeff Turner. If you are looking for a campy, nerdy play full of all the pop culture references you knew and loved when you were younger, this is it. Set in 1995 in Athens, Ohio, the show features Agnes Evans (junior Grace Busse), a 24-year-old English teacher who struggles in the aftermath of an accident that killed her teenage sister Tilly (sophomore Autumn Wilkie), who loved Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), a passion Agnes could not understand. In an effort to know Tilly better, Agnes recruits her student Chuck (senior William Karnick) to help her navigate through a notebook containing Tilly’s player-created D&D world of New Landia, and ends up learning not only an appreciation for the fantasy role-playing game but the untold secrets of Tilly’s life as well.

Contrary to what the synopsis may imply, “She Kills Monsters” is not a wholly heavy-hearted story. If you cry, it will probably be because of how hard you were laughing. Though Tilly’s life was short and wrought with bullying, she is determined to make the most of her last message to the living world. And honestly, how easy can it be to stay pessimistic for long when you are watching a drunk fairy exploding, or Agnes fighting off a gelatinous cube with her sword, or elves and demons swinging their hips to the Spice Girls?

Which, of course, reminds us of the story’s setting. New Landia may be a mystical domain, but it is just as much 1995 there as it is in Athens, Ohio. When Tilly enters the lair of the demon Orcus (played by first-year DJ Brown) to plead for her lost soul back, he is vegging out in front of an episode of Friends. And upon passing through a waterfall, Agnes, Tilly and crew are accompanied by – what else? – TLC’s “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls.” Cell phones and the internet are just as fantastical to the characters as ogres and dragons are. These references are alive and well to Hamline students, many of them having loyal fan bases and cult followings even among those born after the height of their popularity. Time will tell if they, and therefore “She Kills Monsters,” will retain their relevance and wit in the generations to come.

There is much left unsaid about this comedic piece of art, but to reveal too much would be to give away the entire story, so if you want to know more, then mosey your freezing behind down to Anne Simley on Nov. 15, 16 or 17 at 7:30 p.m. to watch the magic unfold. Just make sure you stretch your legs first, because at over 90 minutes, “She Kills Monsters” would have benefitted from a good intermission. While it may be Family Weekend, this is not a family-friendly show, so with that in mind, I recommend it for ages 13 and up.