Crew Two, Bluefence Productions, at WNEP Theater, and The Beatbox, Dirty South Improv, at WNEP Theater. Dawn Franklin and Ally Stinchfield play flight attendants on a plane grounded at O’Hare, entertaining the passengers (us) with biting little songs about one-night stands, sucky boyfriends, and ill-fated romance. Their future in the airline biz is dubious–unless you don’t mind ducking while the in-flight refreshments sail overhead. For the most part Franklin and Stinchfield dig into their roles, but they deliver the gags with a cool, ironic distance that undercuts their comparatively giddy musical performances.
Stinchfield has a raspy whiskey-and-cigarettes voice that mixes well with Franklin’s harmonizing and three-chord strumming. Their goofy banter (“Ya know, girls can be dickheads too…”) greases the wheels a bit and lets the audience in on the joke. But the two of them and director Michael Gellman might do better transporting Crew Two to a setting where the pair could open up for more than three minutes at a time. It’s hard to escape the feeling that you’re trapped–at open mike night at a college bar or on a commercial airliner, without the assistance of alcohol, during the longest flight delay ever.
Dirty South Improv’s The Beatbox–which follows Crew Two on Saturday nights–is popping back for a short run through July while WNEP’s “Around Midnite” series goes on hiatus. The show’s two approaches–the competitive, highly individualistic spirit of the rap battle and the collaboration of the improv group–butt heads at every turn, but what emerges is a pretty good approximation of the feel-good old-school hip-hop aesthetic. And The Beatbox features a strong hook: DJ Rene Duquesnoy modulates the flow of the scenes by scratching on a turntable and beatboxing. In keeping with the late-night setting, the improv is slack to a fault, but the performances are ingratiating and playful. The show won’t make you forget Eminem blasting off into the stratosphere in 8 Mile, but it beats watching Carson Daly host glossy rap battles on MTV.