NYTW’s Hundred Days: To The Band’s Play, We Say “Yes”
The set-up is familiar. When we arrive, it feels like we have all come together to hear a band play, rather than to hear a band’s play. Let alone, a play told by a band that starts and ends with talk about a wedding. But that’s not it exactly. This band by the name of The Bengsons (CSC’s Iphigenia in Aulis) credited with the music, lyrics, and book, along with the talented writer, Sarah Gancher (The Place We Built), tell a tale of diving in, ignoring fear, and devouring a moment or maybe even a period of a Hundred Days, just for the chance to embrace love. Even if our rational brain is telling us that the odds are against any of this happening or being the truth.
It’s glorious, these Hundred Days, and spellbinding in a way that I haven’t experienced since the powerful Hedwig downtown at the Jane Street Theatre, or the Public’s less effective but enjoyable The Outer Space. The similarities between the three are obvious although somewhat superficial in terms of set-up and design. They are not the same in the level of purity of emotion or focus. This band, with soaring vocals, a foot stomping and hand clapping beat, entwined with brilliant songwriting will pull you in to their mythology as if in a dream. Not just with their musical excellence, but with their dedication to vulnerability, truth, and passion.
We are lead through this band’s tale by lead vocalist, Abigal Bengson, who’s voice reminds me of a powerful and emotional Florence and the Machine, but with a strong dream-like twang of Southern folk-punk. Backed by her husband, Shaun Bengson singing gloriously with a softer shyness, all while playing a variety of different instruments, they tease out their tale of improbable love and uncertain attachment with a set list of songs that encompass their Hundred Days and more. Insanely theatrical while being simple and direct, they tell their story without much of anything else beyond their powerful drumming of the beat. They are supported in their tale-telling by four spectacularly talented musicians: Colette Alexander, Jo Lampert, Dani Markham, and Reggie D. White, who take a beautiful thing and transport it beyond.
Staged simply but majestically by Anne Kauffman (NYTW’s Mary Jane), with scenic design by Kris Stone and Andrew Hungerford, props design by Stone (PH’s The Light Years), costume design by Sydney Gallas (59E59’s Knives in Hens), and sound design by Nicholas Pope (Broadway’s Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812), every moment feels authentic and spontaneous. The space is enlightened further by the specific and subtle choreography, designed with the lightest of touches by movement director, Sonya Tayeh (Encores’ The Wild Party) and lit to perfection by Hungerford (The Flea’s remount of These 7 Sicknesses). This is a story that breathes hope and desire into us all, signaling that love without fear can last far longer than a Hundred Days, regardless of sickness or health. It will vibrate through your heart, wondering how so many beautiful and painful suspended memories of love can be created and encompassed. Enough memories and ideas to fill the air with light from the stars overhead, or enough to tell the passing of time with crystals of sand (or salt) pouring down through an hourglass. To this exploration of myth and dreamlike legend and to The Bergsons, I can only say “Yes”.