“She Kills Monsters” offers a cathartic exploration of grief

Tilly, played by Chloe Irwin, immersed herself in the world of Dungeons and Dragons before being killed in a car accident. Photo courtesy of Omaha Community Playhouse
Maria Nevada

The Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of “She Kills Monsters” promises a lot of things. A side-splitting comedy adventure romp, a 90’s pop-culture nostalgia fest for the “Stranger Things” era, but most importantly, a cathartic exploration of grief for loved ones we never really knew and a desperate attempt at keeping them close after death.

The cast of the show (directed by Beth Thompson, drawing on a personal history of loss) delivers comedy, nostalgia and emotion in good measure, but the jump from the painfully side-splitting moments of raunchy hilarity (oh yes, it’s not for kids) to the painful poignant moments of grief and examinations of a life and love lost and found, don’t always stick the landing.

The show is about Agnes, a 25-year-old teacher (played by Catie Zaleski, who is at turns sensitive or brimming with sheer frustrated grief) who has lost her family, including her younger sister Tilly, in a car crash. Tilly was a lively girl who lived her life immersed in the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons while Agnes was occupied by boys, “George Michael and leg warmers.”

After Tilly dies, Agnes is left with no real understanding of Tilly as the teenager she was, only with a notebook with the outlines of a Dungeons and Dragons module Tilly wrote.

Agnes enlists the help of awkward yet charming high school boy and Dungeon Master Chuck (played by an energetic Brendan Brown) to help decipher the mystery of her sister through a boss battle-filled adventure.

Agnes must fight alongside her late sister’s friends in the game: the graceful yet socially inept elf Kaliope, the gleefully violent demon princess Lilith, and the wildly crude and hilarious but also fire-truck red, horny and furry Orcus.

It’s an adventure, yes, but more importantly, it’s a journey. It’s full of laughs, tears and it’s worth taking.