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Theater Review: “Hundred Days"

“Hundred Days” plays through October 21, 2018, at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive on the UCSD campus.
Photo credit:
Jim Carmody

“Being alive is being in grief,” says performer Abigail Bengson at the top of “Hundred Days,” and asks audience members who agree with her to raise a hand.

This is, to put it mildly, an unusual start to a musical/biographical show about two musicians who meet, fall in love and perform together. They meet at the first rehearsal of a new group described by Shaun as an “anti-folk folk-punk old-timey neo soul band,” find that they like each other and working together and begin to perform.

“Hundred Days” is a concert/show like no other I have seen. It’s the 70-minute story of their whirlwind three-week courtship, running through Oct. 21 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum. UCSD graduate Anne Kauffman directs.

In addition to singing, Shaun plays guitar and keyboards; Abigail, guitar and floor drum. The four other musicians who complete the group are Ashley Baier (drums/percussion), El Beh (cello), Barrie Lobo McLain (vocals, accordion, guitar) and Reggie D. White (vocals, keyboards). The group calls itself “The Bengsons.”

But this isn’t just a “hey, let’s put on a musical” kind of event. It’s a meditation on fear, longing, music and the inexorability of time. Abigail comes from an early traumatic family experience, which instilled a fear of loss. The show’s title comes from a dream Abigail had of a doctor telling an imaginary boyfriend he has 100 days to live. She has to fight those fears, as Shaun has to deal with his own problems with shyness and spirituality.

Nor is it a downer. All the excitement of love is here, even if it has to share heart space with that fear. But it’s impossible not to be charmed by Shaun’s comment right out of the gate: “So here it is, the sound of introverts pining!” 

Set designers Kris Stone and Andrew Hungerford reflect Abigail’s psychic starkness with cascades of sand pouring down around her (she says she feels she’s marooned on a salt flat).

They court, they sing, they eat, they sing, they worry and sing. Fear is always there, but so is joy and music – and love.

When they rear-end a UPS truck and Shaun ends up in the hospital, Abigail worries (and sings a stark, haunting piece called “Three-Legged Dog”) – but they both get through it and continue singing

This is an extremely talented sextet of musicians; often the band joins in the singing to make a quartet or quintet for a different sound.

“Hundred Days” will make you think about time, love and the uncontrollable vagaries of life, both good and bad. As the Bengsons conclude about their marriage, “We say yes to death doing us part. What else can we do?”

The details

“Hundred Days” plays through October 21, 2018, at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive on the UCSD campus.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm.; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (858) 550-1010 or lajollaplayhouse.org