Review: Waltzing With Love and Death in ‘Hundred Days’

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Shaun Bengson, left, and Abigail Bengson in “Hundred Days” at the New York Theater Workshop, a musical that charts the couple’s up-down-and-up-again relationship.

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Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

“Hundred Days,” the luminous musical memoir by the Bengsons and Sarah Gancher, is an everyday horror story with a very provisional happy ending — like so many chapters of human existence. This poignant 90-minute show, which opened on Monday night at the New York Theater Workshop, is a response to one ineradicable and devastating fact of life.

To wit: Whether by choice, chance or — ultimately and unavoidably — death, you will be separated from the person you love most.

Arriving at this realization has been the seed for all sorts of lyric reflections, be it from ancient Greek odists, Renaissance sonneteers or pop balladeers. The form in which the husband-and-wife team of Shaun and Abigail Bengson couch their response is a sort of luxuriant, sentimental-cool folk rock, in which fatalistic and angry drumming figures prominently, along with sweet, swirling chords.

Such music is a natural vehicle for the torturous ambivalence of falling in love as young, brooding artists steeped in mortal thoughts. Staged with resonant economy by the talented Anne Kauffman, with sharp and subtle movement direction by Sonya Tayeh, “Hundred Days” is cabaret as cri de coeur, and it is advisable to watch it with a handkerchief at the ready.

The story is of the classic boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl-because-life-is-nothing-but-loss mold. Mr. and Ms. Bengson, known for their eloquent musical contributions to downtown New York theater pieces, are one of those rare couples who really did fall in love at first sight (at a “massive anti-folk folk-punk old-timey neo soul band” rehearsal).

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From left, Jo Lampert, Ms. Bengson and Mr. Bengson in this poignant 90-minute show at New York Theater Workshop.

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Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

They were so sure that each was “the one” for the other that they married three weeks after they met, having summarily displaced a pre-existing boyfriend (in her case) and roommate (in his). But three weeks is a long time in the newly discovered country of young love….

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