Fucked-Up Rap Puppet
Bed Snake Wants to Steal Your Soul
Kara Stokes Photography
Somebody please give Washington Ensemble Theatre (WET) a prize for the way they transform their little black box theater anew each time. Bed Snake's set, by Amiya Brown, is all-encompassing, with every surface covered in paint and graffiti, monitors and garbage everywhere, and a little room where Hannah Victoria Franklin, as Kry$tal, is preparing for the show by making maniacal faces in a mirror and burning a bundle of herbs. When the story gets going, Brown's genius is further revealed with three projectors that play immersive and bombastic music videos over walls, drapery, the ceiling—they're full of wolves and tigers and screaming. A surprise third layer of the set is revealed late in the show.
Franklin and costar Noah Benezra, both co–artistic directors at WET, wrote the show and an entire rap album to go with it (the beats, which are compulsively hip-shaking, are credited to Franklin). They're having so much fun here, Franklin especially, that you almost get a contact high. It's tempting to say she sometimes goes over the top, but that's clearly where this show belongs. Benezra's Wolf, a dopey stoner who spends all day playing video games and aspiring to rap stardom, meets Kry$tal, a famous rapper, in a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (yup!). Benezra plays Wolf so earnestly and cheerfully that you genuinely like him; he's the kind of good-natured loser who'll tell a your-mom joke to the devil—which is exactly what Kry$tal is. Wearing a magenta bra and fishnets, she seduces him into selling his soul in exchange for a rap career. (Well, she hopes he'll ask for a rap career, but what he really wants is the far more complicated "happiness.")
He ends up onstage with Kry$tal as part of rap duo Blood Kry$tal Wolf, and the rhymes that come out of their mouths will make you laugh until your face hurts. It's hard to parody rap anymore because it seems like the boundaries have been pushed past ridiculous and offensive as far as they can go, but they've done an incredible job here. "Her pussy is a dark fuckin' chasm/My girl Kry$tal invented the orgasm... When you see the girl, man, kiss the ring/Kry$tal got titties made out of bling." Their backup dancers, Heidi Korndorffer and Angela Rose Sink, are mesmerizing and sexy and wrapped in neon, while an unexplained and odd little zombie-faced person (Jessie Underhill) goes from participating in the choreography to repeatedly riding a toy horse into a wall. Director Elise Hunt manages to keep the explosive thing from hurtling off the rails, somehow striking a perfect balance of sexy and dark and perverse and hysterical.
"I felt like I was some kind of fucked-up rap puppet or something," Wolf says to Kry$tal after their first show, and seriously, you'll be ready to sell your soul to participate in this depravity.
You can buy a copy of the album at the show, you can go on Thursday nights for only $10, and if you have more fun at the theater this year than you have at Bed Snake, I'd be floored.