By Donna Herman
The folk/rock duo The Bengsons aren’t simply musicians or songwriters, deep in their souls they’re storytellers. Not that there’s anything simple about being a musician or a songwriter. But they also seem compelled to tell us the stories of their lives in a format that gives them more scope than a four minute song. They are creating their own style of performance that is partly a concert, partly a theatrical piece, and totally engrossing. Commissioned by Ars Nova, The Lucky Ones is currently running at the Connelly Theater, explores Abigail Bengson’s family and upbringing.
Brought up in a small Vermont town in a progressive, crunchy-granola environment, by her liberal, free-thinking parents, Abigail was the baby of her chaotic family. Her parents Sherrill (Myra Lucretia Taylor) and Tom (Tom Nelis) and her Aunt Mary (Maryann Plunkett) founded and ran an alternative school in town whose guiding principle was kindness. Her older sister Phoebe (Jennifer Morris) and older cousin Amber (Amelia Workman), Aunt Mary’s daughter, also taught at Blue Mountain School.
But the pendulum swing that sent the parents running in the opposite direction from their own troubled upbringings, could not spare their children from their own nightmares. Raised in a culture of unstructured permissiveness, drugs, and focus on self-fulfillment, one of the children has a psychotic breakdown and commits an unthinkable crime. This act tears the family apart and exposes all the cracks in the foundation.
Sonya Tayeh’s choreography, paired with the spot-on costuming by Asta Bennie Hostetter, perfectly captured the spirit of freedom and abandon that exemplified the hippie, vibe that may not have been a parenting panacea. And Abigail Bengson is a captivating presence on stage. She pours her heart and soul out on songs like “I Want To Be Seen,” “I’m Coming Home” and the eponymous “The Lucky Ones.” It’s nearly impossible to look anywhere else when she is singing.
Unfortunately, The Lucky Ones kind of fizzles out at the end. The big take-away from all the introspection is a version of “damn, I’m okay, phew.” I’m not sure if the issue is not enough time to work on the piece, or not enough life lived to figure out what it all means. But I do know that it needs a little more ending.
The Lucky Ones Book by The Bengsons and Sarah Gancher, Music & Lyrics by The Bengsons, Directed by Anne Kauffman, Choreography by Sonya Tayeh
WITH: Abigail Bengson (Abigail); Shaun Bengson (Shaun); Damon Daunno (Kai); Mia DeWeese (Ensemble); Tilly Evans-Krueger (Ensemble); Lenin Fernandez (Ensemble); Ashley Perez Flanagan (Emily); Lindsey Hailes (Ensemble); Dani Markham (Dani); Zach McNally (Angel); Jennifer Morris (Phoebe); Tom Nelis (Tom); Maryann Plunkett (Mary); Pearl Rhein (Pearl); Ida Saki (Ensemble); Myra Lucretia Taylor (Sherrill); Adina Verson (Emma); Amelia Workman (Amber).
Scenic Design by Rachel Hauck; Costume Design by Asta Bennie Hostetter; Lighting Design by Amith Chandrashaker; Sound Design by Nick Kourtides; Prop Design by (Noah Mease); Orchestrations & Arrangements by The Bengsons; Music Supervision by Kimberly Grigsby; Music Direction by Wiley DeWeese; Casting by Henry Russell Bergstein; Production Stage Manager, Amanda Spooner. Through April 21st at The Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street, NYC. For tickets visit: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/982919