To See or Not to See: Hundred Days
Abigail and Shaun Bengson share their love story with lush, emotional songs that will touch your heart in Hundred Days.
Created by Abigail and Shaun (who are an establish folk-rock duo) with the help of Sarah Gancher and director Anne Kauffman, Hundred Days is not your traditional piece of theater. With simple staging, the Bengson band (in addition to Shaun and Abigail, there are Colette Alexander, Dani Markham, Jo Lampert, and Reggie D. White; all are musicians and vocalists) are front and center the entire time. This creates a hybrid concert-performance. The story that unfolds as Abigail and Shaun take turns telling it is one of facing and confronting fear, love, and life.
Abigail begins by talking about a (somewhat mysterious) mental breakdown and death that occurred in her family when she was fifteen and the resulting reoccurring dream she’s had since. This dream has haunted her. This dream also influences the way she experiences her relationship with Shaun when they first meet and fall in love. Shaun explains where he was in his life when they met, and his immediate knowledge that she was the one for him. Indeed, according to the story they share, Abigail and Shaun were married within three weeks of meeting one another. Some of the details they share are funny; some of them are sweet; some are intense.
Interspersed within their spoken tale is the music. The music is, in one word, glorious (some personal favorites were “Vows,” “Lift Me,”and “Years Go By”). The quiet persona Abigail exudes on stage and the sometimes-awkward person Shaun exudes completely disappear when they perform their folk-rock music. They explode and come alive when they perform in a way they don’t when they are just speaking. Their movements were natural extensions of their feelings in the moment (the movement direction was by Sonya Tayeh), and it makes the experience of watching them something you can almost physically feel.
In fact, their music enhanced whatever particular memory or emotion the Bengsons talked about experiencing. The blend of cello, accordion, keys, guitar, and drums with Abigail and Shaun’s vocals is just stunning (and I should mention that Jo Lampert sang one of their songs which was just wonderful. Her depth of voice and stage presence is fantastic). I don’t know if there are enough adjectives I can use to express how beautiful the music was, especially when paired with the story. In addition to their music, the lighting design was another manifestation of the emotions behind their story. Lighting designer Andrew Hungerford created a magical space with the lights. Additionally, there is a particularly moving moment with the passing of time manifested through the set that was a highlight of the show (Andrew Hungerford co-designed the set with Kris Stone).
The emotions and main idea that Hundred Days spends it’s ninety minutes exploring are universal. The fear—and realization—that you will lose the people you love. If you don’t lose them prematurely due to your own actions, you will lose them, naturally, in death. The vulnerability it takes to accept that fact that love and loss go hand-in-hand (and then to still love someone despite the certain loss) is immense. Neither Abigail nor Shaun shy away from it because, of course, love is what makes life something worth living.
So, do yourself a favor and go experience Hundred Days. You can thank us later.
Hundred Days is at the New York Theatre Workshop until December 31. For more information and tickets, click here.
Photo Credits: Joan Marcus