Crew Two/The Beatbox | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Crew Two/The Beatbox 

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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.

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