She Kills Monsters
Picture the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre stage as an enlarged video screen. Now populate that stage with avatars, those animated figures that resemble people. Enlarge them tenfold from their three-dimensional size. Take a moment to dress those avatars from a wardrobe of choices, like those supplied by a video fantasy kingdom like Second Life. Adorn them with swords, shields, maybe a trickle of dried stage blood. Add sound, the louder the better, preferably industrial or metallic rock. Flash colorful lights so as to razzle-dazzle. Last, so it is not forgotten, weave in some kind of story into the mix, let's say a quest to understand the soul and spirit of a recently departed loved one. Slay a dragon or maybe a couple Bug Bears. Pump adrenalin into the actors - they will need a gallon or more to get through each maniacal performance - and you get She Kills Monsters, by Qui Nguyen, presented by Company One at BCA through May 11, 2013.
Nguyen, who absorbed American pop culture from the world of comic books and video game fantasies as if by intravenous as a youngster trying to learn English, goes over the top. He demonstrates real promise in this show as a writer for the video gaming industry. But if Curt Schilling is any example - having lost his personal fortune on such an enterprise in Rhode Island - perhaps Nguyen might want to develop another kind of play that is more engaging.
It's not that this show doesn't have elements of fun. There are moments of it peppered throughout like sprinkles of fairy dust. Maybe if we cared about the story (more on that below), we might feel included. Maybe if the dialogue probed a bit deeper, that might grab us. But, as befits raunchy cartoon characters, the dialogue is fast, cheap, vulgar. "Just 'cause I'm pretty doesn't mean I won't fuck you the fuck up," is one representative snippet.
The show is fast paced, directed by Shira Milikowsky. There are too many fight scenes, directed by Robert Najarian; not all of them work because after the first three or four, it is difficult to tell who is winning or losing, so we give up and wait until they play out. Marvelous costumes can be seen throughout, designed by Miranda Giurleo, accentuating the cheekiness of the characters. And the puppets (when you can actually see them whizzing past you), designed by Alexandra Herryman, are splendid.
The cast of ten players pounces, slashes, bounces, bounds and dances across the stage with vigor. Some are more effective than others, like Meredith Saran, who plays a lesbian character Lily, and conveys this role with sensitivity. Kaitee Tredway, one of the Evil Cheerleaders, is a hoot, and scary, too: it’d be fun to attend a show with just her on center stage, running through snarky monologues. The cast, in total, leaves the audience gasping, marveling at their unbridled spunkiness. The lighting design by Justin Paice is much too glaring. The sound design, by Aaron Mack, is frequently deafening.
There is nothing to root us to this make-believe world - the story is really an after-thought, if a thought at all. It concerns two sisters (played by real-life sisters Paige Clark Perkinson as Agnes, and Jordan Clark as Tilly). The younger sister, Tilly, has died in a car crash (we only find out this detail in the second act; we’re kept guessing and looking for the clues as to her demise). Agnes, a high school teacher, finds her sister’s gaming notebook and enlists the help of Chuck (Mike Handleman), a geek who escorts her into the twilight world of the video game. Agnes has a boyfriend, played by a miscast Jordan Sobel (he frequently looks lost on stage and he shares no chemistry with Agnes). A more successful character is the friendly high school guidance counselor Vera (Jamianne Devlin), who delivers not-so pithy advice to the lovelorn with ample slices of wry. Agnes encounters her sister in the nether world when she enters the game, and, at the end of the show, has some sort of enlightened idea as to the deeper meaning of her quest.
Overall, it will help mightily if you buy into this weird world by picturing yourself as an avatar before attending. But you also might prefer to grab a hand held device and settle into your favorite chair to play a video game on your Xbox as an alternative.
She Kills Monsters, by Qui Nguyen, directed by Shira Milikowsky, presented by Company One at the Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, runs through May 11, 2013. Visit their website for tickets http://www.companyone.org/.