Is there anything more exhilarating than the start of a new relationship? HUNDRED DAYS at La Jolla playhouse explores those first days of romance, anticipation, and apprehension through the personal lens and story of Abigail and Shaun Bengsons, aka The Bengsons as the duo is known.
This couple, joined by the immensely talented band, Ashley Baier on drums, El Beh on cello, Barrie Lobo McLain with vocals and guitar, and Reggie D. White with vocals and key board deliver a vulnerable and emotionally resonant performance in this concert/storytelling piece. Recounting the whirlwind romance story of how Abigail and Shaun met, fell in love, and got married in three weeks.
Such a strong connection and subsequent actions took them by surprise as they have to deal with the ramifications of their new relationship. Some of those actions include Abigail breaking up with her then fiancé and Shaun having to tell his best friend Max who was driving across country to move in with him, that he needed to find a new place to live. Yet, it’s not the altering of these pre-existing relationships that drives the tension in this piece, but ultimately the personal fears and anxieties between the couple that threaten their burgeoning relationship.
Traumatic family events from Abigail’s past make her wary and a childhood dream/vision/prophesy that she would meet the man of her dreams but then he would die after one hundred days into the relationship make her even more skittish. For Shaun, his worries are more straightforward; has he just blown up his world for a woman he loves but who he won’t be able to keep from walking out?
Directed by Anne Kaufman, it’s not a traditional musical, as they weave their dialogue among their engaging and energetic music, but it doesn’t shy away from the theatrical devices either. The storytelling is in the music and the show is more a concert or folk opera about their relationship.
The energy starts high and ends with some powerful solo moments for Abigail. Abigail is a powerful singer, and Shaun is a talented musician playing multiple instruments. A mix of blues, rock and roll, and folk music with a frenetic energy keep this show about battling emotional demons infused with energy and drive. The supporting band is top notch, but El Beh is a standout with her fantastic performance on the cello.
Set design by Kris Stone and Andrew Hungerford keep everything very clean, with the band as the focal point. It also allows the atmospheric lighting of dozens of hanging bulbs (also by Hungerford) stand out. In one highly impactful number as Abigail, sings about being stranded and alone on a salt flat, columns of softly cascading sand, each individually lit, start to fall.
This is a powerful and deeply personal show told through some about choosing or not to take the risk of a new relationship. This show explores the vulnerability in love, and the fear of becoming vulnerable which could lead to heartache. Love is always a win, but inevitably there is the fear of the loss; after all the words ’til death do us part” are right there in the deal.
Love, hope, and a touch of melancholy make HUNDRED DAYS a deeply personal, stirring, and highly entertaining evening.
HUNDRED DAYS is playing at the La Jolla Playhouse through October 21st, go to www.lajollaplayhouse.org for ticket and show time information.