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Off Broadway

He Says: NYTW’s Hundred Days: To The Band’s Play, We Say “Yes”

He Says: 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.
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Abigail Bengson. Photo by Joan Marcus.
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.
Hundred Days New York Theatre Workshop
Shaun Bengson, Reggie D. White, Dani Markham, Jo Lampert, Abigail Bengson. Photo by Joan Marcus.
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.
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Abigail Bengson, Jo Lampert, Colette Alexander, Shaun Bengson. Photo by Joan Marcus.
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”.
hundreddays90
Hundred Days New York Theatre Workshop – Book by The Bengsons and Sarah Gancher; Music and Lyrics by The Bengsons; Directed by Anne Kauffman; Reggie D White, Abigail Bengson, Dani Markham, Shaun Bengson, Colette Alexander, Jo Lampert. Photo by Joan Marcus.
 For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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