A Twenty-first Century tale told in Twenty-first Century style, the Flea Theater’s She Kills Monsters may not be for everyone. The play’s excessive profanity and sexual allusions may offend some, and there’s a lot of violence and killing (though not a drop of blood is seen). However, the R-rated content serves both the characters and the story quite well.
Agnes’ younger sister, Tilly, was killed in a horrific automobile accident, along with the rest of Agnes’ family. Tilly (Allison Buck) was into magic and all manner of strange, weird things. Agnes (Santomi Blair) searches to discover what her sister was really all about.
The only clue Agnes has is a notebook that Tilly turned from a “lame-ass school assignment” into a “Dungeons and Dragons game.” Tilly states, “I was a dorky fifteen year-old closeted lesbian.” We are immediately drawn into Agnes’ search, which revolves around role playing. It’s a rough road to travel and more than once Agnes decides she has had enough and will end her quest…”I’m done talking with ghosts.”
Nick Francone’s set is effectively minimal—a table, chairs, and an upstage door. There is no defined line between playing area and seating, making the audience almost, but not quite, a participant in the action. A picture frame on the back wall displays a colorful and intricate drawing cleverly created out of elements of the production (Jaime Vallés). The projected images and captions within the frame are periodically changed and, though perhaps obliquely significant (“You’re pregnant, who do you tell?”), seem extraneous and distracting. There are simply much more important and interesting things happening on stage.
The writer (Qui Nguyen) includes a multitude of characters and monsters in this well written larger-than-life story, some of which are puppets (David Valentine), most of which are fabulously costumed (Jessica Pabst) actors. There are “real people,” and comic strip characters vividly brought to life. To name but a few—Orcos, Lord of the Underworld, a flesh eating dominatrix, a sexy elf, several large bug bears, a schizophrenic high school guidance counselor, and Agnes’ fiancé Miles who morphs into a gelatinous cube.
All participating members of the Flea’s resident acting company, The Bats, are excellent, managing many quick changes with remarkable energy.
The fight scenes (Mike Chin) and choreography (Emily Edwards) are creative, and superbly performed. The sounds and music (Shane Rettig) never fail to heighten the action.
The special effects alone are worth the price of admission. Most notable is the final battle scene (the outcome of which you’ll have to see for yourself) with smoke, flashing lights, and a humongous dragon…the definitive suspension of disbelief.
Director Robert Ross Parker maintains a fast forward moving pace without a missing a beat, and Stage Manager Michelle Kelleher, along with three able assistants, somehow manages to keep everything under control.
Near the end of the final scene Tillly asks of Agnes, “Did you have fun? That’s the point of all this.” We have to agree.
Photos by Joan Marcus, from top:
1. Megha Nabe, Satomi Blair, Margaret Odette & Allison Buck
2. Margaret Odette & Megha Nabe
3. Allison Buck
4. Nicky Schmidlein & Company
She Kills Monsters
The Flea Theatre
Written by Qui Nguyen
Directed by Robert Ross Parker
41 White Street (three blocks south of Canal between Church Street and Broadway and easily accessible by subway)
Through December 23, Tuesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $25. Tuesdays one ticket is Pay-What-You-Can, and Saturday matinees are $10.