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She Kills Monsters

When bad things happen to good people, we are often at a loss to console those most affected, let alone offer any explanation of the tragedy.

(Left to right) Jenna Moll Reyes as Tilly and Lisa Ann Gaylord as Lilith
(L to R) Jenna Moll Reyes as Tilly
and Lisa Ann Gaylord as Lilith
Photo: A&J Photography
When 25-year old Agnes' (Lilli Hokama) 13-year old sister Tilly (Jenna Moll Reyes) dies in an auto accident with their parents, Agnes takes it especially hard, feeling that she hardly knew her much younger sibling.

While cleaning out Tilly's room, Agnes finds her sister's Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) notebook, precipitating an adventure into the imaginary world where Tilly compensated for her average-in-every-way, real-time life. Agnes engages Chuck (a patient and equanimious Jordan Doll), a geek Dungeon Master, to guide her through the complex rules of this alternative universe.

Tilly (Jenna Moll Reyes) saves her sister, Agnes (Lilli Hokama) from monsters
Tilly (Jenna Moll Reyes) saves
her sister, Agnes (Lilli Hokama)
from monsters
Photo: A&J Photography
Leveraging the popularity of this role-playing game, playwright Qui Nguyen conjures a healing dose of consolation for Agnes as she teams with her deceased sister and some elves to slay a variety of monsters, while developing her relationship with Tilly and discovering the details of her life.

As one would hope from a game in which the participants envision themselves as superheroes and wizards, Nguyen's script provides a perfect platform for a grand spectacle of exhuberant fight choreography, scary creatures and striking gladiators (iconic costumes by Nicole M. Harrison) and a range of alternately terrifying and cartoonish monsters (by Corey Gilstrap), along with a series of delightful special effects—a love for all of which director and fight choreographer Geoffrey Kent brings to the stage in spades. Kent gets heartfelt and athletic performances from the cast, drawing cheers from the audience for their derring-do.

Set in Athens, Ohio and the imaginary New Landia in 1995, the pulse of the story draws heavily from pop music of that era, with a surfeit of comical asides referencing various cultural events.

Lilith (Lisa Ann Gaylord) triumphant
Lilith (Lisa Ann Gaylord) triumphant
Photo: A&J Photography
Among Tilly's real-life high school tormenters—a couple of cheerleaders who turn into meanies in the fantasy world—Evil Gabbi (Kyra Lindsay) and Evil Tina (Ilasiea Gray) shine in some high-octane dance numbers, with flashy and fun choreography by Piper Lindsay Arpan. Tilly's real life friends and fantasy allies, Kelly/Kaliope (Katie Cross) and Lilly/Lilith (Lisa Ann Gaylord), provide Agnes with further insight into her sister's subconscious life. Agnes' friend, Vera (Courtney Esser), the school guidance counselor, helps steady Agnes' emotional roller-coaster ride in coming to grips with Tilly's life and death. Other high school friends, Steve (Edwin Jordan) and Ronnie (Josh Archer) also hyperbolize into comical fantasy presences. The gigantic firebreathing monster is impressively navigated by Benaiah Anderson.

Agnes (Lilli Hokama) slays a shape shifter
Agnes (Lilli Hokama)
slays a shape shifter
Photo: A&J Photography
Learning to play DnD, or, more accurately in this story, learning to survive in a dangerous world of her sister's making, is challenging for Agnes, who must overcome her grief-driven anger and skepticism of the premise. She also must put up with her boyfriend Miles' (Anthony Bianco) jealousy, despite his fear of commitment. On the otherhand, Tilly, who continues to live in this other world, must deal with her resentment toward Agnes' clumsiness with New Landia protocol. Hokama and Reyes play off each other with a natural dynamic of sibling friction and sisterly chemistry. Bianco's well-drawn arc of Miles' maturation, from egocentric to considerate, sets up the happy ending.

Aurora Fox Theatre's production of She Kills Monsters runs through May 16th. For tickets: (303) 739-1970 or www.AuroraFox.org.

Bob Bows

 

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