Review Roundup: HUNDRED DAYS at La Jolla Playhouse
La Jolla Playhouse 's Hundred Days is now on stage! The production has a book by The Bengsons and Sarah Gancher, music and lyrics by The Bengsons, is directed by Anne Kauffman, with movement direction by Sonya Tayeh. Nominated for a 2018 Lucille Lortel Award, Hundred Days runs in the Playhouse's Mandell Weiss Forum through October 21.
In addition to Abigail Bengson (vocals/guitar/floor tom) and Shaun Bengson (vocals/guitar/keys), the cast features Ashley Baier (drums/percussion), El Beh (cello), Barrie Lobo McLain (vocals/accordion/guitar) and Reggie D. White (vocals/keys), last seen at the Playhouse in The Last Tiger in Haiti.
The creative team includes Abigail and Shaun Bengson, Co-Music Directors; Kris Stone (Playhouse's Blood and Gifts), Co-Scenic Designer/Props Designer; Sydney Gallas, Costume Designer; Andrew Hungerford, Co-Scenic Designer/Lighting Designer; Nicholas Pope, Sound Designer; and Jamie Lynne Simons, Stage Manager.
Dubbed "a luminous musical memoir" and a Critic's Pick by The New York Times, Hundred Days is an exhilarating and heartrending autobiographical piece, written and performed by husband-and-wife team Abigail and Shaun Bengson, about embracing uncertainty, taking a leap, and loving as if you only had a hundred days to live. With their magnetic chemistry and unique musical style, The Bengsons explore the fundamental question of how to make the most of the time you have.
Hundred Days is presented by special arrangement with Erica Rotstein, Seaview Productions, Z Space and New York Theatre Workshop. The show was originally developed and produced by Z Space, Lisa Steindler, Artistic Director, and piece by piece productions/Wendy vanden Heuvel, and further developed and produced Off-Broadway by New York Theatre Workshop on December 4, 2017, Jim Nicola, Artistic Director, Jeremy Blocker, Managing Director.
La Jolla Playhouse is a place where artists and audiences come together to create what's new and next in the American theatre, from Tony Award-winning productions, to imaginative programs for young audiences, to interactive experiences outside our theatre walls. Currently led by 2017 Tony Award-winning Artistic Director Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Debby Buchholz, the Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer. Playhouse artists and audiences have taken part in the development of new plays and musicals, including mounting 95 world premieres, commissioning 50 new works, and sending 32 productions to Broadway, among them the currently-running hit musicals Come From Away and SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical - garnering a total of 38 Tony Awards, including the 1993 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
James Herbert, San Diego Tribune: It's also visually powerful, as columns of sand cascade onto Kris Stone and Andrew Hungerford's spare set (lit by Hungerford for maximum drama) around Abigail, who describes herself as marooned on a vast salt flat representing past, present and future. (The moment is a little reminiscent of a scene from the underappreciated movie "Interstellar," in which an astronaut travels through a physical manifestation of time to reach his daughter, and conveys messages to her in falling dust.)
Welton Jones, San Diego Story: The Bengsons wrote all the songs and brought them into keen performance edge, no small achievement for artists also simultaneously performing. The band is a four-piece combination that I've always admired - keyboards, accordion, cello and percussion - used here in knowing synchronization with advanced electronics. The keyboard is mostly a drone or bass beat, the percussion solid country-punk with few tricks, the cello a lovely solo voice and the accordion a busy and versatile fill-in. All the musicians sing with purpose and most of them have a snippet of personality patched into the show's main drive by Kauffman and Tayeh.
E.H. Reiter, BroadwayWorld: 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.