IBW’s “She Kills Monsters” is a fantastical adventure you shouldn’t miss


Cate Latimer (she/her), Editor

“In a time before Facebook, Worlds of Warcraft, and Massive Multiplayer Online RPG’s, there once existed simply a game,” the Narrator (Mei Cooke) began. And once the lights rose, Southwest Stageworks’ fantastic journey of sword slashing and comedy unfolded.

Becoming a modern staple in the high school and college theater world, She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen is a fun and nerdy twist on the classic game of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). After her sister’s death, Agnes Evans (Dory Black) takes up the game, which was one of Tilly Evans’, (Shaelyn Gallagher) old hobbies, and is pushed into a fantastical D&D recreation of Tilly’s old life—one Agnes never felt she truly got to know. As the two battle monsters along with a colorful cast of characters including a demon queen (Marissa Margolin), a dark elf (Katie Douglas), and the ruler of the underworld (Ian Lafrenz), Agnes learns more about the sister she lost.

She Kills Monsters is witty at just the right moments, countering difficult conversations with funny and self-aware dialogue. The play is much more than a recounting of D&D tales, but rather, at times, a poignant exploration of identity, found families, love and friendship.

It would be remiss to glaze over the fabulous acting found in the show. The IBW cast truly made the play their own, adding a unique perspective to each character, and they made great use of the funny dialogue—with breakout moments from Ian Lafrenz and Connor Alexander as Orcus the Overlord and Chuck. After opening night, cast members Dory Black and Shaelyn Gallagher felt that the production overall was a transformative experience for the cast’s skills. “[The play] was a very big learning experience and I think that at the end, we all grew as actors,” Black said.  

The D&D “party,” or the five primary roles in the fantasy world of NewLandia, had an engaging chemistry that brought the game to life. Agnes and Tilly felt like they had a genuine sibling relationship that was nuanced and complicated as they navigated the realities Tilly had faced, while Katie Douglas, Marissa Margolin, and Ian Lafrenz carried the rest of the team with strength. 

The crew was also to thank for the performance. With the painted stage, unique spinning sets, and a large projector screen that served as a backdrop for maps, silhouettes, and artwork, She Kills Monsters was a technical feat executed well. The sets and costuming were sharp and effective, and from monster masks to D&D setups, I was always pleasantly surprised by what came next. 

One thing that separated the show from past Southwest Stageworks productions was the sheer amount of stage combat. With characters frequently fighting monsters, I was worried about excessive repetition, however, the scenes remained fresh, largely due to the guidance of Jaquelle C. Davis, the fight choreographer for the show, and Cass Beleele, the student fight captain. 

With the successful execution of a complex show, the future looks bright for young members of the IBW theater community. While upperclassmen such as Dory Black, Connor Alexander, and Ian Lafrenz shined, so did a large number of sophomores. For one, Shaelyn Gallagher performed Tilly perfectly, and the rest of the sophomores followed suit. In the coming years, it will be exciting to watch these actors grow as Southwest Stageworks continues to put them front and center.

With the combination of a fun, modern play and younger actors came much-needed representation on stage. Dory Black and Shaelyn Gallagher found it meaningful to put on a play that felt connected to them and the theater department as a whole.

“A lot of the people in the script are queer and a lot of people in our company are queer identifying so the cast as a whole identified with that,” Gallagher said. “Also, I’ve played D&D before and I’m a huge nerd so I connected with that.” The representation found in She Kills Monsters is unique and full of joy, heartbreak, and conversations students have seen play out in their own lives. “I’ve had those challenging conversations about sexuality, so I was really able to connect with that part in the script,” she said.

After a successful opening night show, She Kills Monsters is ready to wow its audience, no matter who you are. “It’s truly for everybody,” Gallagher said. With a mix of stage combat, laugh-out-loud moments, and scenes that aren’t afraid to tug at your heartstrings, She Kills Monsters is a play you shouldn’t miss. 


Tickets for She Kills Monsters are on sale now and performances last until February 25th.