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Theater review by Adam Feldman
Love came quickly to the Bengsons, though not necessarily easily. In their nimble theatrical concert Hundred Days, the husband-and-wife indie-folk-rock musicians tell a story of how they met and married three weeks later—it is seemingly autobiographical, though scripted by Sarah Gancher—and their attitude, at least initially, is affectless. The self-effacingly bearded Shaun is a mild-mannered gent with only rare hints of turbid waters beneath his still surface. (The homeschooled son of a Lutheran pastor, he spent his formative years trying “to be the best at having no ego.”) Abigail is more forthcoming, but in the aftermath of what she cloudily refers to as “a type of storm” that left her family in ruins, she has been plagued by visions of imminent catastrophe that make her recoil from the commitment she leaps into with Shaun. In the show’s dramatic climax, she unleashes the dogs of fear in a furious wail of blues.
Director Anne Kauffman plays against the internal emotional extremism of the material with an elegantly spare staging. Hung like stars above the stage, designer Andrew Hungerford’s individual lights brighten and wane. Vertical fluorescent tubes rise and fall; snow descends in isolated columns and pools like sand in an hourglass, as Nicholas Pope’s sound design wraps the music around the audience like a blanket. (The four-piece band includes vocalists Jo Lampert and Reggie D. White.) Though only 75 minutes long, Hundred Days has a slow, deliberate sensibility, in keeping with the Bengsons’ ways of dealing with death: not to outrun time but to force it to the pace you choose, extending it by a shared exultation in detail. The trick to sustaining love at first sight, their show suggests, is to never stop looking.
New York Theatre Workshop (Off Broadway). By the Bengsons and Sarah Gancher. Directed by Anne Kauffman. With the Bengsons. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission. Through Dec 31.