True & Original Love Songs – Chicago Reader



There are shows that break the heart and the brain of a writer. It’s one of those shows – open-hearted, genre-defying, utterly overwhelming, beautiful to watch but confusing to write. (My hard drive is littered with drafts of this short review.) Structured like a live concert, with pieces of narration woven in (the songs are by Abigail Nessen-Bengson and Shaun Bengson, who write and perform under the name The Bengsons, and the Bengsons and playwright Sarah Gancher’s book), One hundred days recounts the tumultuous first three weeks of Abigail and Shaun’s relationship, a relationship that includes both collaboration – they wrote their first song on the first day they met – and quirky romance / marriage. Remarkably, the Bengsons and Gancher manage, in their high-octane show, to be alternately soft and cynical, tender and harsh, jaded and jejune, not to mention painful aggressiveness and vulnerability.

One hundred days
Until 1/9: Thu-Sat 8 p.m., Sun 5 p.m., Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division,, $ 38, $ 30 students / seniors, tickets limited to $ 15 students / artists for each show.

The Bengsons starred in the original iterations of this show, which premiered in San Francisco in 2014 and then moved to New York City. In this iteration, performed by Lucky Stiff, the Bengsons are played by Emilie Modaff (Abigail) and Royen Kent and Alec Phan, who play the role of Shaun (Phan played Shaun the night I saw the show), and their performances are heartbreakingly beautiful. Step by step, we watch these two damaged but worthy souls go through their first provisional reunions (at one point in a touching soliloquy, Shaun sings, “How can you bear to let someone, let someone love you?” ”) Through the first streams of full-throated ecstasy (“ I am a universe / I am your man ”) to the whispered acceptance that it won’t just be a hundred days thing.

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