Tilly killed the monsters in Dungeons and Dragons, but they were the least of her problems.
The real monsters surrounded her, in the school hallway, the bullying, the intolerance. Tilly was the admitted geek among her friends until a car wreck took her life.
That's when Tilly's older sister, Agnes, enters the battle in Theatre Baton Rouge's production of Qui Nguyen's "She Kills Monsters."
The show, a production in Theatre Baton Rouge's City Series, opens Feb. 9 in the Studio Theatre.
The story unfolds in 1990s Athens, Ohio, a time before the internet dominated our culture. Gamers gathered around a table instead of playing faceless opponents online.
"It was considered a geek thing," director Jason Breaux says. "But it was fun, and we socialized."
And it led to what Breaux calls "geek theater."
"It's a genre that needed to happen, and theater is moving in that direction — genres that are relevant to people's lives," Breaux says. "I understand it, and I can relate to this play, because I used to play Dungeons and Dragons in the '90s. I still play it."
The game is the magnet that draws the story's characters together when Agnes, played by Kendall Gibson, discovers a Dungeons and Dragons notebook that belonged to her sister, Tilly, played by Ashley Stevens.
"Agnes is older, in her 20s," Gibson says. "She suddenly finds herself alone after her parents and sister are killed in a car wreck, and she realizes when going through Tilly's things that she really doesn't know her."
Intrigued by the game, Agnes takes it to a game store to learn more. The clerk, Chuck, played by Bennett Cockerham, is a Dungeons and Dragons player who knew Tilly. Chuck agrees to act as Dungeon Master for Agnes, and the game begins.
"Agnes learns a lot about her sister in the game, and there are even some things that come to light that she didn't know," Gibson says. "And she realizes she didn't know a lot of the things Tilly was going through."
The play is performed in multiple layers as Agnes' real-life search to learn about her sister is played out in the imaginary battle of the game.
The play is both funny and action-packed as characters' role playing morphs into seemingly real-life situations, including choreographed stage fights against homicidal fairies and nasty ogres.
This imaginary world, Agnes learns, was Tilly’s refuge from a world that did not accept her, a world in which she not only earns Agnes' posthumous acceptance but also her respect.
She Kills Monsters
A Theatre Baton Rouge Turner-Fischer City Series production
WHEN: Feb. 9-11, Feb. 15-18. Performances at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Theatre Baton Rouge's Studio Theatre, 7155 Florida Blvd.
TICKETS/INFO: $25, $19 for students. (225) 924-6496 or theatrebr.org