‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away . . .” Or, in the words of playwright Qui Nguyen, “In a time before Facebook, Worlds of Warcraft, and Massive Multiplayer Online RPGs, there once existed simply a game.” The game, in Nguyen’s 2011 fantasy “She Kills Monsters,” is Dungeons & Dragons, which in the digital 21st century might well seem a long time ago and a galaxy far far away. But Nguyen’s meditation on tolerance, sisterhood, the games we love to play, and the stories we love to tell is timeless, and the Company One production now up at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Theatre is a comic strip with heart.
The “she” who kills monsters is 15-year-old Tilly Evans, of Athens, Ohio; her D&D name is Tillius the Paladin, healer of the wounded and the protector of lights. As the play opens, she and her parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving behind Tilly’s 25-year-old schoolteacher sister, Agnes the Average, and a notebook containing “The Lost Soul of Athens,” a D&D adventure that Tilly created. Agnes never paid much attention to her sister, but now she’s hoping to connect through the notebook, so she seeks out über-geek teenager Chuck. Suddenly Agnes finds herself inside the notebook, joining a leather-clad Tilly and her friends Lilith Morningstar and Kaliope Darkwalker on a quest to recapture the lost soul of Athens from Orcus, demon lord of the underworld. It turns out that Tilly based her characters on people she knew, and that brings Agnes and Tilly uncomfortably close.