If you’ve been following my articles, then you most likely saw my article about the top ten female performances I’ve seen in theatre. Abigail Bengson made the list coming in at number three and I promised an article about the beauty of the Bengsons. This is that article.
When you strike a middle C on the piano, it sets in motion vibrations from other notes. It resonates a chord and creates a fuller sound than can be made by just one note. So is the experience of seeing the Bengsons perform.
I’ve been lucky enough to see the Bengsons perform once, in The Lucky Ones, a semi-autobiographical story about Abigail Bengson’s dysfunctional family, her coming of age, and her relationship with her husband, Shaun. As Shaun described it “It’s all true, even the parts we made up.”
I have not been lucky enough to see them in Hundred Days, the story of how they met, fell in love, and got married—in three weeks no less—but I sincerely hope to someday.
However, I’ve had the cast album on repeat. A favorite number of mine on the album is Three Legged Dog, the 13th song and eleven o’clock number about the gripping fear of losing someone you love. Now, I don’t want to mince words: this is not a sweet performance. It’s not lovely. It’s not the song she would do on social media to promote the show. But in its own way, it’s beautiful.
In Three Legged Dog, Abigail Bengson really lets loose. In it she cries “I’m not strong enough for this, I never said I could, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” And yet in that vulnerability and weakness is a unique power. It is raw, it is wrenching, and it’s hard to listen to. Abigail’s willingness to go to that place, to trade conventional beauty for honesty is unique and it is special.
Another example of that is the entirety of the show The Lucky Ones. Now, Lucky Ones plays out like a live musical version of 48 Hours, but at the heart of it is Abigail and many painful experiences she went through, from the murder of a close friend to her miscarriage. It’s all extremely private, the kind of ghosts in the attic that never quite leave and that you wouldn’t want to share, but she leaves it all on the table in the name of honesty and earnestness.
To be honest about such things takes a level of bravery that’s honestly frightening. You are skinning your soul and asking people to tell you it’s pretty. And not everyone will respond like you hope they will: Pearl Rhein, a musician in The Lucky Ones, confided in me that she saw people leave the show during it, and I can see why. Lucky Ones isn’t a show so much as a journey and not everyone is ready for such a trek.
However, if you let your soul be disquieted, if you let the Bengsons reach out to you with their story, their joys and their heartbreaks, then you will feel your heart reaching out to theirs in return. In the same way a V7 chord always longs to resolve itself to the root chord, so too do the Bengson’s vulnerability and it is absolutely not to be missed.
(Photo by Ben Arons)