Ridgewood couple turns their Astoria love story into a musical, ‘Hundred Days’

Photos by Joan Marcus

Abigail Bengson had experienced a prophetic dream involving the love of her life and a diner booth during a tumultuous time at age 15. So, years later, when she first got to know fellow musician (and her future husband) Shaun Bengson over a meal at an Astoria diner, she knew something was right. That night, she broke up with her fiancé.

For the Bengsons’ second date, Abigail moved into Shaun’s tiny Astoria apartment.

And now, a decade later, the married couple (who double as a band called The Bengsons) are telling their love story on stage in Manhattan in a piece called “Hundred Days.” It’s not so much a play or musical as a “theatrical concert,” as director Anne Kauffman describes it. Abigail and Shaun Bengson perform as themselves on stage, taking the audience through their first few months together using original folk-punk songs (and their gorgeous, versatile voices). The cast is filled out with a few other performers, all of whom play instruments and sing backup, and sometimes ask questions or make comments about the Bengsons’ story as they tell it.

Hundred Days New York Theatre Workshop

“The entire cast is truly our band. It’s a show told deeply with music and concert tools,” Abigail Bengson said. “We’ve really focused on using the tools that are naturally onstage when you play in a band.”

Lest you think the Bengsons’ love story will be all sunshine and roses, there was a second part to Abigail’s prophetic dream. We won’t reveal any spoilers here, but soon after meeting, the couple was spurred to live their entire lives together in just 100 days before a tragedy that Abigail had foreseen.

Hundred Days New York Theatre Workshop

Their real-life story may seem fantastical — a sense that is enhanced by the enchanting music and some ethereal additions to the simple stage setup — but the sense of fate is enough to give the audience goosebumps.

Hundred DaysNew York Theatre Workshop

“I truly did have a very specific dream at a difficult time in my life that told me among other things that I’d find the love of my life in a diner booth. I did!” Abigail Bengson said.

Hundred Days New York Theatre Workshop

The Bengsons now live in another Queens neighborhood: Ridgewood, which many of their artist friends and collaborators also call home. They even live across the hall from Sarah Gancher, who wrote the book of “Hundred Days” with the couple.

Hundred DaysNew York Theatre Workshop

Since the Bengsons describe in the show how they first came to start a band together, the audience feels that they have not only learned about the couple’s romantic journey but also gone on a musical journey with them.

“Our first gig was at this really crappy venue in Chinatown, but it got better from there,” Shaun Bengson said.

It certainly did get better, with “Hundred Days” playing at New York Theatre Workshop, which has produced more than 100 new, fully staged works including “Once,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Rent.”

Hundred DaysNew York Theatre Workshop

“We feel really proud and lucky to be at NYTW,” Abigail Bengson said. “They really push their artists to innovate and tell their truth.”

Shows run through Dec. 31, and you can find more information at hundreddays.org.

Hundred Days New York Theatre Workshop

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