Review by Rachel Bohl, Mariemont High School Critic Team
What would a Dungeons and Dragons adventure be if you didn't get to fight a dragon? The School for Creative and Performing Arts produced a profound, magical, and immersive production of She Kills Monsters, which transported the audience into a land of quests and monsters. The cast and crew's execution of this unique show created a memorable performance that captivated the entire audience.
A new take on what it means to be a nerd, She Kills Monsters explores the intensities of grief and the discovery of who you are. Agnes Evans, a well liked cheerleader in Athens, Ohio, is faced with the tragedy of her geeky younger sister Tilly's death. The only way Agnes will ever be able to understand who she was is through a quest in the far-fetched world of Dungeons and Dragons. Together the duo, along with the rest of their party, fight monsters and dragons in an effort to reclaim Tilly's lost soul.
Every ounce of emotion and energy created by the cast's performance was felt by the audience, many of which shed a tear. The creativity in the performance was displayed by the intricate sets designed by Max Mergner, as well as the tasteful transition between scenes accompanied by Jonah Justice's exquisite guitar skills.
Aubrey Jones' powerful portrayal of Agnes added immense depth to the performance as she encapsulated the grief felt after losing a sister. She became a vivacious stage fighter establishing a dramatic realness to the performance.
The definition of strong, but mighty, is true for Marcia Guase's performance of Orcus, which was unparalleled. By creating a lively and humorous stage presence, she sold her striking character to the audience. The expert timing and delivery of comedic lines during tense scenes led to a truly compelling execution of the role. The forest fairy Farrah, played by Peyton Kirby, provoked her character's want for revenge in a refreshingly unique way that left the audience wondering how such a sweet appearance could be so deceiving.
When faced with the challenge of conveying the D&D world to the audience, Giovanni Weissman fabricated seamless animations to enchant the stage. These animations were integral to the creation of this distinctive performance. The stage manager, Jaemir Whitfield, also did an astounding job at ensuring that the show went on flawlessly.
The entire cast and crew of She Kills Monsters created a magnificent show that encompassed the themes of grief and self identity into an exceptionally thought provoking performance.
Review by Owen Cummings, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
Armed with swords, spells, and several well-timed 90s references, The School for Creative and Performing Arts transported audiences into the fantasy world of Qui Nguyen's She Kills Monsters.
The play follows Agnes, a conflicted and courageous girl struggling to navigate both the real world and the fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons following her sister Tilly's death. Aubrey Jones played both sides of Agnes with immense energy and range, with both her comedic and dramatic moments feeling incredibly naturalistic (which is fairly hard to pull off in a forest surrounded by ferocious creatures). Jones served as a compelling protagonist who's personal development throughout the story is performed with expert pacing and tension that demands eyes while onstage.
The ability to fully disappear into a role is often hard to accomplish in high school theatre, but the entire cast truly embodied their (sometimes multiple) characters and truly felt like a band of monster-fighting heroes. Sophia Trefz as Tilly commanded the stage as the younger sister yearning for her older sibling's affection, and the Evil Cheerleaders, were delightfully hateable in the villain roles. Brahm Riggs's Chuck, the veteran Dungeon Master who leads Agnes on Tilly's quest, provides both well timed comic relief and in-game narration that explains the world to Agnes and the audience .
Amidst the immersive forest backdrop designed by Max Mergner, the story of both struggling with identity unfolds, as Agnes learns through her journey in Tilly's game about her sister's navigation with her sexuality in a time and climate that does not accept that as something normal. The cast and crew handled this subject in both an engaging and respectful way that doesn't end up feeling ham-fisted at all, exploring the connection between Tilly and her love interest Lily, played by Nadia Griffith, with as much care and emotion as the relationship between Agnes and her boyfriend Miles get, showing the validity of this relationship was as strong as any other.
SCPA's production of She Kills Monsters showcased a very human story in a very fantastical world that tackled identity, confidence, and connection in an incredibly well acted and well produced way. In the words of Tilly, who described the appeal of D&D by saying, "We play it because it's awesome," She Kills Monsters truly was, in every sense of the word, awesome.
Review by Alex Bertucci, Campbell County High School Critic Team
Prepare, great adventurer, for a journey full of dragons, grunge and geekiness. The School for Creative and Performing Arts' production of the high-energy and wildly funny comedy, She Kills Monsters, was quite the journey for all involved.
She Kills Monsters is one of the most unique shows popular among high schoolers today. The show was originally written by Qui Nguyen and premiered in 2011. The story centers around the popular roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons. We follow Agnes Evans, the completely normal girl who's interested in normal things, and the strange and fantastical D&D adventure she goes on trying to understand her sister, Tilly, after her sudden death. Along the way, Agnes must discover and deal with aspects of her sister she didn't know about.
The School for Creative and Performing Arts' production featured unique contributions from their students that set it apart from other performances of this play. Jonah Justice, a senior instrumental major at SCPA, played guitar through each scene change and provided backing music for the entire show. The live music helped to increase the high-energy feel of the show and made the scene changes less noticeable.
Lead actress Audrey Jones' performance was strong enough to convey the constant inner turmoil and character arc that comes with a character like Agnes. When the character eventually realizes she never really knew her sister before it was too late, she is devastated and breaks down. Jones displayed an ability to be very vulnerable and left the audience shocked.
The supporting cast had some real standout performances. Luke Randazzo provided lots of comic relief as Agnes' loveable, but often oblivious boyfriend, Miles. Nadia Griffith showed lots of range by playing both the quick-witted and aggressive demon queen Lilith, and her shy and closeted real world counterpart, Lily.
One of the show's strongest features was its technical elements. Giovanni Weissman provided several animations that helped to move the story along in a visually engaging way. The animations provided the show with some of its most pivotal moments, including the tragic death of Tilly.
Overall, SCPA's She Kills Monsters delivered a heartfelt story that the audience is sure to remember.
Excerpts from Other Top Reviews
"The School for Creative and Preforming Arts' production of She Kills Monsters brilliantly balanced the heavy topics and light-hearted jokes of this production. The intricate set design with projections and detailed sets, as well as the actor's outstanding portrayal of the characters led to quite an enjoyable production."
-Ashlynn Fuhrmann, Harrison High School Critic Team
"Aubrey Jones took on the challenge of displaying Agnes' grief, her intense interactions with Sophia Trefz as Tilly making up the emotional majority of the show. Their acting wasn't limited to just emotion, however; Jones and Trefz joined with Nadia Griffith as Lilith, Marcia Gause as Orcus, and Jayla Bolt as Kaliope to execute several choreographed fight scenes with all the passion and precision of true warriors."
-Brooke Yates, Ryle High School Critic Team
"The School of Creative and Performing Arts filled the stage with many unique and energetic characters. The Evil Cheerleaders, Tina; Nicole Stocks and Gabi; Kaniya Page brought the stereotypic 'high school bully' to the story. The cheerleaders showed a cruel and physical side to the D&D adventure, while a popular fake side to reality."
-Anna Pack , Campbell County High School Critic Team
"While Orcus may have reluctantly given up one night of watching Quantum Leap, I would give up a lifetime of Quantum Leap to watch Marcia Gause reprise her role. Gause's impeccable comedic timing as well as her character's light-hearted nature resulted in everyone in the theater loving her."
-Ella Clemons, Loveland High School Critic Team
"At the introduction of the "bosses" in the Dungeons and Dragons scenes, Steve (Riley Cambell) was a funny addition as he always was trying to kill the monsters, but never got a chance to try."
-Alyssa Freihoffer, Ryle High School Critic Team
"Without the set, designed by Max Mergner, the epic battle scene would not have been epic. Without the technical effects by Giovanni Weissman, the interactive elements would have been nonexistent. And finally, without the hard work of the stage managers, headed by Jaemir Whitfield, the transitions between scenes would not have been anywhere near as smooth."
-Alex Serger, St. Ursula Academy Critic Team
"The students at SCPA might not have had any monsters to slay, but they definitely killed it."
-Lee Garber-Ford, Taylor High School Critic Team