If you liked WET's retrofuturistic '80s MTV tribute Robopop! two years ago, you'll be eager to see this welding of horror movie and hard-core rap. This musical dramedy is another premiere from the company's Noah Benezra and Hannah Victoria Franklin. Bed Snake takes just 70 minutes to work its malevolent magic, all revolving around a slacker who sells his soul for mad microphone skillz and finds himself sucked into the underworld as if via pneumatic tube. Like Robopop!, the show is essentially a sketch, but executed with greater length and intelligence than SNL could ever mange.
Washington Ensemble Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E., 352-5105, washingtonensemble.org. $10-$50. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Mon. through June 2.
Yet the music and beats are a serious, slamming hoot (credited to Kry$tal and Wolf, the characters Franklin and Benezra play in the show). Melody may creep in occasionally, but most of the soundtrack is a satanic roar of energy, braggadocio, and violence, augmented by grainy film clips and bloody vidgames. Elissa Eskridge's smoldering, stuttering choreography is executed with the precision of a Lady Gaga show.
Swirling at the maelstrom's center is the love/hate dynamic between fanboy Wolf and the devilish rap goddess Kry$tal, who has collected many souls before his. Starting as a hopeless dweeb, for Wolf to sell his soul like Robert Johnson seems a more-than-fair bargain. Though once he becomes her rap equal, Wolf finds it hard to win Kry$tal's love.
Don't let the graffiti-strewn set and ripped clothes fool you: Nothing's slipshod or left to chance in Bed Snake. Amiya Brown's spray-paint designs and lighting make good use of WET's shoebox theater; the supporting cast dances their asses off (at one point, they undulate on the walls); and Benezra holds his own against Franklin, who commands a stage like few others. She's the Statue of Liberty of our local theater scene, a towering figure who invests every character with missionary fervor. After seeing Bed Snake, you just might want to sell her your soul, too.