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A CurtainUp Review
The Bengson's have a poignant story to tell about a recently wed couple who come to terms with the unexpected news that the husband has only a hundred days to live. Within that outline of the story, the songs about angst and heartbreak become its main content and propellant. Dramatic action is kept to a minimum but effective when it is prompted by the emotional needs of the song
The wife's shock at finding out that her husband has been diagnosed with incurable cancer sets off a progression of memories from childhood on. Her memories spark songs that are finely calibrated as well as cleverly calculated to follow their first love-at-first-sight meeting through to the end of their tragically abbreviated life together in a very familiar New York City. Interspersed is a flow of heady but heartfelt interior monologues.
The often electrifying musicianship and the stirring arias have been keenly considered to emphasize the couple's fear of losing each other and how to make each day they have left together count. The inherent sadness of the situation is an essential part of an eclectic score that is anything but sad in its execution. It's hard to put a label on this very listenable and exciting score that encompasses almost very genre from country to blues to jazz to heavy metal and to modern show music.
In addition to the Bengsons, there are five musicians (Coletta Alexander, Joe Lampert, Dani Markham, and Reggie D. White) who play percussion, guitar, cello, accordion and keyboard while also portraying various best friends and family members. Under the direction of Anne KauffmanAll these on-stage performing musicians have impressive solos and perform with admirable versatility as a supporting chorus.
I suspect that Kauffman and movement director Sonya Tayeh have been a major factor in determining how believably Mrs. Bengson's body language reveals the powerful feelings that feed each song. I especially liked the studded leather jacket she wears over a short, pretty house dress and the boots that she uses for some very effective stomping. The bespectacled Mr. Bengson is a splendid guitarist with a winning unassuming personality. . .that is until he is no longer unassuming.
Perhaps a decision was made early on to keep Hundred Days contained in an uncluttered musical framework that is uncompromisingly direct in its presentation. Without gilding the lyrics (I wish, however, I could have heard them more distinctly) a little more imagination in the staging wouldn't have hurt. We've already seen what actors acting while also playing musical instruments can do. But I hope that more will be coming our way from the very talented Bengsons who surely need to stay alive and well and composing.
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Hundred Days by The Bengsons & Sarah Gancher
Directed by Anne Kauffman
Movement Direction by Sonya Tayeh
Cast: Abigail Bengson, Shaun Bengson, Colette Alexander, Jo Lampert, Dani Markham, Reggie D. White
Co-Scenic & Props Design: Kris Stone
Stage Manager: Lindsey Turteltaub
Running Time: 80 minutes no intermission
New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Street
From 11/15/17 Opened 12/04/17 Ends 12/31/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 12/02/17
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