Ars Nova presents indie-music duo The Bengsons ('Hundred Days') spinning a memory-tale of teenaged passion, ideals lived to the limits, family shattered and faith lost — all in hope of finding a way home again. More…
Through soulful electro-folk songs, this driving, semi-autobiographical story grabs joy and grief with the same hand and holds them tightly, in a radical affirmation of being alive.
"The whole show is so beautifully crafted, it's less a musical and more a seamless experience that grabs you tight at the outset and never lets go until the final dimming of the lights. That's due in some part to a gorgeous script, but also in large measure to Tayeh's groundbreaking choreography, Bengson's warm stage presence, and a score that represents the best indie-folk/rock has to offer...Seamless, deep, and artistically inspiring, 'The Lucky Ones' is theatre at its very best." Full Review
"Abundantly surprising, deeply intimate, and simply gorgeous...It is raw, honest, and human. While scripted and certainly fictionalized at times, it feels anything but, due to the intensity of Abigail’s performance and the strength of Kauffman’s guiding hand...The show is expertly calibrated, energetically and passionately performed, and very moving. I must admit, I am smitten by The Bengsons and am eager to hear and see more of their unique voice and vision." Full Review
"A heartrending deep-dive into the vessels of childhood, the roots of adolescence that grow deep within us and those intensely human experiences of family from which we may never unbind ourselves...This show is rapture. It is a daring examination of the limits of memory and trauma. It is chaos spoken in poetry, and it is the type of well-made, deeply personal theater that could be delivered only by a company with as much commitment to story and radical form." Full Review
"Heartbreakingly human, semi-autobiographical tales...Anne Kauffman's direction and Sonya Tayeh's choreography work impeccably well with the music...A testament to Kauffman and Tayeh’s leadership, the show’s entire cast, tops to toes, gives an inspiring performance...It is viscerally evident that every facet has been considered in creating one united, yet nuanced, message. I laughed, I cried, I jammed. I witnessed storytelling of intense emotional depth, and ultimately, the joy of storytelling." Full Review
"Unbound and unapologetic...Presented with confidence and thoughtfulness...The music is utterly electrifying...Kauffman's direction brings a 'just right' aesthetic giving it all the craftsmanship and polish of a Broadway smash with the grit and candor of downtown theater...An easily world-class ensemble...'The Lucky Ones' is unusual and necessary. It doesn’t announce itself, and won’t justify itself for anyone. It IS; and as such invites you to experience its truest and most authentic self." Full Review
"Scratch any family history, and you’re bound to draw some blood. Abigail Bengson's childhood experience has more than most...Harrowing...A teen bacchanal, thrillingly choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, culminates in a cozy romance-but not for long...Tragedy that ensues, but nothing in this story is that simple...'The lucky ones,' the show suggests, are those who, born into damage, can still 'open up.' Bengson, with her extraordinarily expressive musical and authorial voice, does so magnificently." Full Review
"It is thrillingly awesome, assembling a large diverse cast of talented creatures to create a tale on a much bigger canvas...The cast is uniformly excellent, chanting us into the history of this story from all sides like a primal pack of ancients...Feels like a rocking athletic roller coaster ride, through pain and trauma, hoping to come out at the end shaken and wind-blown, but feeling the gasp and the grabbing hold of survival." Full Review
"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. It’s nearly impossible to look anywhere else when she is singing...Unfortunately, 'The Lucky Ones' kind of fizzles out at the end." Full Review
"The Bengsons have once again supplied a brace of distinctive indie-folk tunes matched with probing lyrics that illuminate the family's oddball, self-invented way of life...If 'Hundred Days' came across as an evasive, even self-indulgent work, 'The Lucky Ones' is an almost foolhardy act of bravery. We may not be getting the full story, but, nevertheless, she has put these deeply personal materials to work in asking probing questions about happiness, fidelity, and one's place in the world." Full Review
"There's an intoxicating quality to the Bengsons' music...The entire cast gives passionate performances...It is possible to appreciate the virtuosity on display even if you don't really buy the Bengsons' consistently on-brand folksy fabulism (which I didn't)...Stripped of its soul-stirring music and mystical staging, 'The Lucky Ones' would look a lot like an after-school special...Yet the tale of a young man whose delusions of grandeur drive him to violence feels especially relevant in 2018." Full Review
"Weaned more on indie rock...The Bengsons create hard-charging shows hewn from their own life stories...Playwright Sarah Gancher helps shape the memories into the musical's book...But the narrative remains loose-limbed. It's more tell than actual show...'The Lucky Ones' has a lot of things going for it, particularly for adventurous theatergoers. And while its parts may not add up to a convincing whole, I still feel lucky to have seen it." Full Review
"Very little action moves the narrative forward, creating a sense of stasis. What we witness is mainly offered in the form of memories and comments on the memories…Just because the memories are expressed in articulate language doesn't make them as fascinating to an audience of strangers as they must be to The Bengsons…An unnecessarily long two hours…Kauffman…has failed to shape…the material in a compelling way, allowing its incipient sense of self-indulgence to eventually overshadow everything." Full Review
"The songwriting, though feelingful, does not yet seem complex enough structurally to handle the size and depth of the action it must portray...The music has a pleasantly droning quality that forestalls harmonic development. The ruminative, repetitive lyrics similarly stunt the drama...Kauffman’s astute staging does what it can to jury-rig a feeling of depth...The storytelling is as yet too impulsive, and at times too self-indulgent, to be corralled...A gawky, powerful work in progress." Full Review
"By scripting former anguish and forcing themselves to relive the past for the length of an off-Broadway run, it turns the truth into something manufactured. Theatre is, by nature, false. Actors, playwrights, and directors are encouraged to be honest in their creations, but that’s not the same thing as being truthful...Abigail returns nightly to a brutal event from her youth...It’s either a brilliant performance or the memory is still so alive in her that the musical is functioning as therapy." Full Review
"Adding to the confusion are Abigail's many family members, including her sisters--one of whom is named Emily (Ashley Pérez Flanagan), not to be confused with her new friend Emma--her parents, her aunt (the stalwart Maryann Plunkett) and her cousins. Another part of the problem is that there are simply too many people to be contained on the small stage of the Connelly Theater, which may be why the majority of them begin the show in the balcony in the rear of the auditorium." Full Review
See it if You love live music, incredibly connected performers, astonishing staging and dancing, moving theater that gets to the very core of life
Don't see it if You don't like folky, rock music, don't want to be surrounded by amazing performers, not interested in vital, moving theater
See it if you love original takes on the musical form. I was absolutely mesmerized. Amazing songs. Heartwrenching performances
Don't see it if You need light song & dance spectacles. This is heavy but so so worth it. Wow.
See it if You like a folk inflected indie-rock beat with a pretty dark (if at times funny) story and you're OK with a non-traditional musical form.
Don't see it if You want something lighter with an upbeat vibe and/or if you're looking for a traditional musical form
See it if Indie musical (banjo, accordion, electric guitar, etc.) of a hippy family that encounters a tragedy. Slightly rough around the edges.
Don't see it if Indie / folk music isn't your thing. Mental health / death is triggering
See it if you love folksy story-telling with great music and voices. You enjoy powerful stories about family and appreciate less traditional musicals.
Don't see it if you don't like breaking the 4th wall, or would hate by a story of how mental illness tore a family apart, told on stage as therapy.
See it if you like new work, intimate spaces, eclectic music, pseudo-documentarian style quirky choreography.
Don't see it if you don't like indie folk style music or direct address or if you like traditional storytelling.
See it if You're interested in a soul-baring musical show accompanied by great choreography & a riveting story. This may be the most honest show ever.
Don't see it if You are looking for a traditional play - this is not that. But it would be hard not to be swept away by its emotion and intensity.
See it if you love a performer who gives her heart and soul to her work. Great ensemble, orginal storytelling, inventive, seemless staging.
Don't see it if don't want to go to the east village off the beaten path or if you are looking conventional theater.
See it if You love strong story-telling, near-immersive theatre, BEAUTIFUL music, deeply emotional stories.
Don't see it if You struggle with themes of family violence or descriptions of physical violence. You prefer straight plays/musicals, not a combination.
See it if You enjoy podcasts such as This American Life, Radiolab, Invisibilia, etc. It has a very similar feel, especially the last third.
Don't see it if You dislike folk/indie scores. You are looking for a "light" show.
See it if you enjoy a different type of musical with indie rock music and a deeply personal story. There are a lot of great songs and creative staging
Don't see it if you don't like indie rock music or don't like shows that deal with real life family tragedies.
See it if you like Ars Nova productions and are looking for a musical that's moving the art form forward. More developed than Hundred Days but similar
Don't see it if you don't like experimental theatre or documentary theater.
See it if you're interested in a touching autobio concert-musical that combines elements of folk, rock & electronic music by two exciting talents.
Don't see it if you prefer a more classic structure or sound to your musical theater.
See it if Autobiographical musical about an extended family that suffers a tragedy. Beautifully performed songs with intense feeling. Sad but real.
Don't see it if You want a more uplifting experience. This is a 2 1/2 hour show that drags in the second half. It's at its best during the songs.
See it if You like downtown theater focusing on autobiographical storylines and great live music in a cool space.
Don't see it if You want something like a classic musical or don’t want to feel passionate intimate performances by great artists
See it if you enjoy non-traditional theatre, multi-genre scores, and raw, honest storytelling performed by a terrific ensemble
Don't see it if you are only a fan of traditional theatre or prefer standard showtunes to folk-rock
See it if Wonderful singing, moving story of the disintegration of a loving oddball family. Humorous and sad, sometimes love is not enough.
Don't see it if No sets to speak of, fourth wall comes and goes, definitely indie, off-off broadway fare.
See it if you like the bengson’s music/you liked a hundred days. you like exciting music or semi autobiographical shows.
Don't see it if you don’t care for loud music, non traditional storytelling, non traditional dance, or a shift in narrative and style.
See it if you're a Bengsons fan (this is more successful than Hundred Days at NYTW); you're interested in new music theatre forms or electro-folk
Don't see it if you expect all rough edges smoothed out (still has workshop feel to it, & some elements are more successful than others; some need pruning)
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