Hundred Days Kokandy Productions

..."a story like "Hundred Days,"..is the perfect story for the moment... the sheer talent is enough to impress, but the a cappella sections of this show will send literal chills." - Jerald Pierce, Chicago Tribune 11/16/21


"..those searching for a deeply touching love story would love to spend a night watching Hundred Days" - Laura Katz, Picturethispost.com 11/17/21


Its unabashed intensity leaves the impression that anything is possible, that people can do anything" - Laura Katz, PicturethisPost.com 11/17/21

 

For info & tickets info@kokandyproductions.com or 773-904-0642

 

Please note: Kokandy Productions will require proof of vaccination or a negative covid test and masking at all performance.

 

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11/07/21 - 01/09/22

Thu-Sat 8pm; Sun 5pm. See ticket link extra performances


‘Hundred Days' by Kokandy Productions is a moving story about grief, death and love, told through a concert-like play - Jerald Pierce, Chicago Tribune 11/16/21.

"Grief has touched the lives of us all at one point or another. That's never felt more true than when looking at the ever-rising death toll resulting from COVID-19. Before readily available vaccines, many had to face down that grief alone, unable to even be around family members as they spent their last moments in crowded hospitals. Kokandy Productions was set to open the Chicago premiere of "Hundred Days" back in March 2020, before the pandemic. But now that we're finally able to gather, perhaps a story like "Hundred Days," one that reminds us that, despite the inevitability of death, grief doesn't have to be suffered alone is the perfect story for the moment.


"Hundred Days" presents a musical memoir of its creators, Shaun and Abigail Bengson, who wrote the music and lyrics as well as wrote the book alongside Sarah Gancher. The story follows Abigail and Shaun falling quickly in love and marrying after three weeks. But more deeply, it follows the effects of Abigail's deep-seated grief, spawning from childhood trauma and death of those close to her, on their relationship. The musical explores a simple question: Faced with someone you love potentially only having 100 days left to live, what do you do?


The exploration plays out over the course of essentially an hour-and-a-half concert featuring a mix of folk and punk music. Kokandy's production, directed here by Lucky Stiff, is even set up to feel like a music venue, with cabaret tables surrounding a thrust stage with a platform at the back. The back platform contains a variety of musical instruments, played by the cast of seven, and the thrust stage is covered in layers of rugs.


The Bengsons' music, under music direction by Matthew Muñiz, is exhilarating as the ensemble of Grace Bobber, David Gordon-Johnson, Lucas "Looch" Johnson, Brennan Urbi and Melanie Vitaterna each play multiple instruments and contribute background vocals to support the central story led by Emilie Modaff (Abigail) and Alec Phan (who alternates playing Shaun with Royen Kent). The sheer talent to be able to, say, go from an accordion to guitar to upright bass is enough to impress, but the a cappella sections of this show will send literal chills.


But this show isn't just a concert, it's a love story, with Modaff and Phan at its center. Phan is charming as a reserved Shaun, and Modaff an absolute powerhouse as Abigail. Through them, and with Stiff's direction and especially Jackie Fox's lighting design (she also designed the set), the concert feel elevates to something significantly more magical as it takes the audience inside the minds of Abigail and Shaun during a tumultuous time in their relationship.


One high point is a montage of Abigail and Shaun as they attempt to stretch out days as long as they possibly can by taking mental pictures of all of their adventures together. A click of Johnson's drumsticks matched with a flash of lights capture each memory. It's an effect that gives way to horror as tragedy strikes the couple. The bottom drops out as Abigail is unable to stop the unyielding clicks from Johnson's sticks as Abigail's retelling of their story gives way to the moments that maybe they don't want to remember.


What keeps this production from truly taking flight are the few times that concert feeling overpowers the story being told. While Stiff's direction is capable of holding the beautiful artistry of those mental picture moments, there are times, especially when Shaun's part of the story gets told, the actual plot gets muddied. That can partially be attributed to the sound mix, which swallowed the understated, yet beautiful, vocals of Phan. This is a musical after all, and even though the songs can pulsate and drive like a concert, something gets lost if the lyrics and story aren't prioritized.


Thankfully, the meat of this story lies on the more than capable shoulders of Modaff. Modaff is this show's flotation device. Anytime an audience member may lose track of the story as the music overpowers, all they need do is look for the earnest eyes of Modaff's Abigail. This story lives so powerfully within them that lines like "We will make 100 days last forever" are piercing and gutting. It's impossible to know how much of the content of this musical Modaff actually identifies with, and I won't hazard a guess. But when they opened the show by saying that this was a true story, their story about the role grief played in their life - I believed them and never stopped"


Kokandy Productions Presents HUNDRED DAYS Review - Folk-Punk Emotional Roller Coaster - Laura Katz, PictureThisPost.com 11/17/21

"The Chopin Theatre's downstairs space is small and intimate, and the artistic team sets up a variety of chairs, tables, and couches for the audience. The room is fairly dark, with much of the light coming from small candles set up on the little café tables. As the play begins, we watch the actors prepare their instruments on stage. The actors joke around with the audience, immediately creating a relationship and inviting us in. The ambiance feels informal and casual.


The actors then take their positions and start to play their instruments performing this folk-punk score, starting an emotional roller coaster for the next 75 minutes.


For the entire show, the stage itself is bare except for the actors, instruments, and a border of sand. As nightmares play out on stage, we see the lights go dim, and one of our main characters, Abigail, (played by Emilie Modaff) picks up and release piles of sand. As she does this the band performs slow melodies in low light. The image of white sand falling in this candlelit space haunts.


Kokandy Productions Presents a Musical Memoir


This is Hundred Days, with music and lyrics by the Bengsons, a musical memoir that follows Abigail and Shaun Bengson's love story. From the moment they meet to the choice to get married three weeks later, this couple lives their story as if there are only a hundred days to live. With every high stakes decision forced into such a tight window, the musical is full of twists and turns, sometimes surprising us. Abigail and Shaun (Alec Phan for this performance) sit at a table center stage. Their relationship has gone through so much already, and still has a whole journey to go. The tension is high, and it's impossible not to feel the weight of the serious, life-changing decisions that are just waiting to be said aloud. As they stare at each other, Abigail simply asks where Shaun sees himself in his 30s. Then in his 40s, 50s, and so on. Abigail shares their answers, and the two smile as they dream about the possibilities.

Love, Fear and Death
"This is a musical about loving someone even though we're all going to die someday. It's about being scared and doing the thing anyway... It's about remembering that you're not alone."

So says Director Lucky Stiff's handwritten note in the virtual program

Much of the story is about fear of death, and at various points, Abigail has visions of losing the love of their life. As much as Hundred Days explores the darker, heartbreaking parts of love, there are also light moments of happiness that elicit joyful laughter.


Those searching for a deeply touching love story would love to spend a night watching Hundred Days.


Unraveled, unkempt, unapologetic: Kokandy's ‘Hundred Days' makes merry music of mourning - Quinn Rigg, 11/19/21 


"As leaves fall, as weather grows colder, and as skies darken at 4:30, ovens warm in preparation for another pandemic holiday season. Such times warrant reflection on seasons past, to remember all that's been loved, all that's been lost, and all that may hang in the space between. In this vein of holding space for the joys and pains of the heart, Kokandy Productions presents an existential query: how would you live as if you only had one hundred days left?

Hundred Days is an actor-musician musical memoir with songs by the folk-punk duo The Bengsons and book by the band in tandem with Sarah Gancher. It tells the true story of how Abigail and Shaun Bengson met, struggled with deep-seated trauma and anxiety, and then married, all within the span of three weeks. Through their rich and often experimental music, they dive into their ugly struggles, their beautiful reconciliations, consolidating their meeting into a raw, vulnerable, overwhelming, and sweet concert of seventy-five minutes.


Due to the intensity of the subject matter and narrative styling, this musical is not for the faint of heart. While told truthfully and intimately, the tonal extremes of Hundred Days' story are as fascinating as they are perturbing. Part concert, part musical, part performance-art piece, Hundred Days is dense in content and an abundant feast for the senses; the frenetic and disparate pieces of this musical work well to inhabit the emotional disarray and scrappy folk-punk aesthetic. These unkempt aspects are made whole through shared thematic simplicity. Sweet ballads and dread-filled howling alike are centered in the exploration of life's joys and its grief. The relationship between living and losing is a critical debate the Bengsons set to stage, resonantly answered with the joyful acceptance of pain as part of the package.

Hundred Days is dynamic, domestic, and frantic, which director Lucky Stiff takes in enthusiastic stride. Lucky Stiff deftly weaves through the innocent intimacy of burgeoning romance, the jubilation of music-making, and the distress of grief. Carefully crafted imagery artfully eases the audience into the vulnerability of two people navigating their way through life; from tender lying down on the floor, to a literal river of salt being poured onto the stage, Lucky Stiff shapes a profound theatrical experiment upon the thrust staging of the Chopin Theater's basement.
Music direction by Matthew Muñiz is a delightful masterclass in ensemble orchestration. Each performer on stage is both vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, and each takes a turn demonstrating their prowess. Orchestrated thoughtfully and performed cohesively, Muñiz spins a tight-woven tapestry of sound.

The luxury of a talented and connected cast makes the massive undertaking of this musical all the more rewarding. Melanie Vitaterna, Grace Bobber, Lucas "Looch" Johnson, Brennan rubi, and David Gordon-Johnson comprise a triple-threat ensemble of musicians, actors, and singers all. Choreographed by Collin Quinn Rice, this ensemble bounds into electric motion with fearless, precise, and effortless engagement.

Emilie Modaff is a powerhouse of a singer and a gut-wrenchingly vulnerable band leader as Abigail Bengson. Unafraid and uncensored, Modaff is dauntless to the challenge of inhabiting the fear and desire of a person in love fractured by trauma. Their performance is undeniable in its volume and energy.

Alec Phan portrays Shaun Bengson with endearing sensitivity and nuance. Whether plucking on mandolin, jamming on guitar, or simply holding conversation at a table, Phan's energy onstage is unwaveringly tender and abundantly warm. (Royen Kent plays the role at select performances.)

A talented production team rounds out Kokandy's roster. Jackie Fox presents deceptively simple scenic design as a canvas for her stellar lighting design in tandem with Henry Muller. Masterful compositions of light elevate moments of hope and despair alike; Fox's and Muller's lighting is unreal in its transformative quality given the constraints of the space.

With a killer cast to tackle this scrappy emotional whirlwind of a musical, Hundred Days is refreshingly inventive and innovative in its storytelling. Its unabashed intensity leaves the impression that anything is possible, that people can do anything - even overcome the great unrelenting maw between life and death. Perhaps the dark and cold spaces of life are as joyful as they are scary.


* * *


Kokandy Productions - HUNDRED DAYS is an uncensored, exhilarating and heartrending true story about embracing uncertainty, taking a leap, and loving as if you only had 100 days to live. With magnetic chemistry and anthemic folk-punk music, creators Abigail and Shaun Bengson explore a fundamental question: how do we make the most of the time that we have?


A New York Times Critics' Pick, HUNDRED DAYS was hailed as "a luminous musical memoir that celebrates and laments the elusive radiance of a shared life." New York Magazine called the show "a series of ecstatic songs that make the case for living and loving. Hundred Days shines a light in the darkness. There's something about that way of moving through the world-chest up, heart open, irony pushed firmly aside-that feels downright daring right now."


 

Director
Lucky Stiff

Performers
Emilie Modaff; Royen Kent; Alech Phan; Grace Bobber; David-Gordon Johnson; Lucas

Production
Jackie Fox (scenic and original lighting design); Virginia Varland (original costume design); Mike J. Patrick (sound design), Patrick O'Brien (sound design, engineer); Noah Watkins (associate director); Abby Teel (stage manager; Irena Hadzi Dordevic (associate scenic designer); Nicholas Reinhart (production manager); Henry Muller (lighting design); Scot Kokandy (executive producer) and Derek Van Barham (producing artistic director).

Tags: Theater, American, 2021