Review: “Bed Snake” Conceived by Noah Benezra and Hannah Victoria Franklin. Music by “Blood Kry$tal Wolf” (Noah Benzra and Hannah Victoria Franklin) Directed by Elise Hunt. With Noah Benezra, Hannah Victoria Franklin, Heidi Korndoffer, Angela Rose Sink, and Jessie Underhill. Now through May 28, 2012 at Washington Ensemble Theatre.
Washington Ensemble Theatre’s latest production, “Bed Snake” is another ensemble generated work, the apparent theme for their current season. It’s a self-described “amorality play” but it’s really an hour and a ten minute long rap musical with a Faust theme. It was conceived and written by WET co-artistic directors Noah Benezra and Hannah Victoria Franklin who also star as Wolf, a sweet but rather dim witted slacker and wannabe rapper, and Kry$tal, the mysterious and tough as nails impresario who turns Wolf into a rap superstar. Not surprisingly, Kry$tal is also apparently the Devil and Wolf has sold his soul to achieve true happiness…but, things get complicated.
In many ways, “Bed Snake” resembles a very successful WET production from a couple seasons back, “RoboPop!”, their short, sweet pop music video about forbidden robot-human love and the follies of war and bigotry. Frankly, I ADORED ”
RoboPop!”; it was charming, original, hugely entertaining and very imaginatively staged, designed and performed and I frequently wish I could see it again.
I wish I could say the same for “Bed Snake” but I cannot tell a lie…while I admire the intent, talent and the passion of all of its creators, “Bed Snake” was an irritating, simple minded bore from start to finish. I’ll be honest here; I’m not a huge rap fan and it’s certainly not my music genre of choice but I have liked and even loved certain rap songs and performers. The rap/music of “Bed Snake” isn’t bad; in fact, I liked a great deal of it. Ms Franklin and Mr. Benezra have a talent for writing some clever songs and a passionate skill for performing them. (And, who doesn’t enjoy a rap song about face fucking?) But, the basic structure of “Bed Snake” isn’t very original or very interesting. Taking the Faust legend, so familiar that it’s a cliche, and tweaking it by changing it to a contemporary setting and adding rap to it, isn’t very daring….in fact, it’s just lazy writing. The rather abrupt ending of “Bed Snake” was also “tweaked” but it’s so sudden and arbitrary that it doesn’t feel like an ending but more like the clock ran out… “Oops! WET shows should be short and sweet ’cause we need to wrap it up so we don’t bother the tenants in the apartments upstairs! The Party is OVER!!!” The result is, “Bed Snake” feels like a really long sketch, without much payoff with two characters that never evolve beyond, “Oh, he’s Faust and she’s the Devil and it’s set in the world of Rap!” I expect a bit more from WET, a company I hugely admire and respect.
As usual, WET has done an imaginative and creative job of tech and design work for “Bed Snake” with its multi-leveled, graffiti strewn set and non-stop barrage of lighting effects by Amiya Brown; sound design by Ms Franklin; appropriately ratty and punked out costumes by Pete Rush and numerous pieces of video projected all over the set designed and executed by director Elise Hunt, Jeremy Behrens, and Ms Franklin. From a design perspective, “Bed Snake” was fascinating; I just wish the story and structure of the work itself, lived up to that same potential.