100 Days is nothing short of life, truth, a jamboree of music styles and genres, innovation, heat, darkness, and flights into the outer space of terror and cataclysm that only intense love can generate. If you are ready for a fabulous production, part of the Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater, then you must speed your way down to Lafayette Street to see this thoroughly enveloping show.
The production is Abigail and Shaun Bengson’s exploration of their feelings and the events during and after they first met at a music festival and, like surrealist lovers Salvador Dalí and Gala, decide to be together. Shaun and Abigail they moved in together immediately and got married within a span of three weeks.
After introducing themselves to the audience and discussing their rather uneventful, sad-sackish, un-tumultuous lives, Abigail humorously lowers her spanx (because “this shit is about to get real”), and tells us an opaque dream she has had about the man she will love and marry. Her dreamscape saunters and storms through their relationship and provides a good deal of the show’s prophetic euphoria and terror. Because of her dreams Abigail is convinced that Shaun is her man; but what are those dreams that she also finds fearful? She relates fragments, like he is in a “beam of light,” but as with all dreams neither she nor we can initially make sense of their prophecy. Though Shaun did not have a dream, he is convinced that this woman is “the one.”
This shockwave romance propels them toward the dizzying heights of a beautiful mountaintop and to the terrors of the darkest recesses of the caves of Goa. As their imaginations envelope each other and their selves combine, exchange, and morph, together as one each finds and reclaims a new person. Their songs catapult us through the whirlwind of love, and Shaun shares one of the eight songs he wrote as a consolation for Max, who would have moved in with him in NYC if Abigail hadn’t happened. This music is a kaleidoscope of joy and energy that indefinably sizzles as folk, punk, fusion, blues, rock, jazz and more.
And then it happens. Bubbling up from some primordial swamp in their consciousness come elements of fear and invisible anticipations which play a strange chord of misery around their mutual love. The music reflects this transformation and the pace heightens and becomes more frenetic and dramatic.
Shaun’s terrible worry is that this fantastic woman whose beauty is opening up like a flower before him will eventually abandon him. Indeed, the moment she meets Shaun, like Gala and Dalí (Gala left her husband Paul Éluard right after meeting Dalí at a party), they go to a diner. It is so easy between them that Abigail decides to end her relationship with her boyfriend and move in with Shaun immediately. How she releases her former boyfriend, like an afterthought, perhaps gnaws unconsciously at Shaun and throws a shadow over him, though Abigail has given him no cause. Like all lovers, Shaun develops the dread that this relationship and “the woman he has been waiting for all of his life” will find a reason to ditch him.
For Abigail, the fear travels deeper in her soul. The first week she is with her man, three beloved people die. She senses part of the dream is coming to pass, for the other side of the dream is a doctor’s office. And the doctor tells her that a creature within Shaun’s bones will cause his death in 100 days. Shaun’s death is a terror she cannot confront with him, so she tells him nothing, gathers her creative resources, and together they decide to speed up time so that they will live a full lifetime in 100 days.
They will do this by making memories of their time together through the little details. In the insignificant items that folks usually forget so that they can plan for the bigger events, Abigail and Shaun poetically force themselves to remember. The inherent theme of making each moment count is a necessary reminder to us who have been too caught up in “stuff” to realize that a second, a minute, an hour has passed and have we enjoyed it? Abigail and Shaun make it a point, a “click,” to remember a look, an action, a comment, all that chronicle their years together, so that they convert six, seven, eight decades into 100 days.
After Abigail has the fateful dream, they immediately leave to visit Shaun’s parents. They are going to marry. They leave at 3AM to drive to Sacramento from New York City to tell them. They sing their travels, the band calling out the places they drive through and also reminding them of the years passing in days. They are determined to appreciate their love each second they breathe and to affirm that love to and for each other on this journey.
However, they are so frenzied from the fear of losing one another that they cannot discuss what they fear. Though as one of their song lyrics says, they have “laid down their pride” and will keep it at each others’ feet, they have not done the same with their fears, their terrors, their nightmares of loss. There is a lesson of trust.
The arc of their journey speeding up their time together to memorialize their love turns in on itself when they arrive at Shaun’s parents’ house to tell them their wedding plans. A childhood past and familial bonds collide with relationship in which there will be a heady joining of families. The chaos evokes in a torrent of emotions for Abigail. Eventually, she “can’t take it anymore” and she flees. I felt throughout my body in identification with the song she sings for this. We know as we have known all along that unless their terrors are exorcised and spoken out to each other, unless they work to achieve a level of temperance and contentment in their love, they will destroy it, themselves, and the greatness of what they have.
All I can say is: Wow! I enjoyed everything about the production, which sports effective, minimalistic artistic design and whose band members (cellist, drummer, percussionist-pianos, singer), are simply terrific. I am a forever fan and as they said in their last number, the Bengsons’s love, relationship, power, will go “on and on and on” like we will (if you believe in a spiritual eternity, which I do).
100 Days created by Abigail and Shaun Bengson with collaborators Anne Kauffman and Sarah Gancher will be at The Public Theater in a limited engagement until Sunday January 15. The production runs 90 minutes and has no intermission. One isn’t necessary. You join them in an absolutely stunning ride that careens into life themes at every turn. You are bound to bump into your own love circumstances as well. You won’t feel the “time fly,” another life lesson. Tickets are available online.