‘The Lucky Ones’: An emotional roller-coaster by the husband-wife team behind ‘Hundred Days’

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could tell such a gut-wrenching, personal story to audiences night after night without going over the edge, but Abigail Bengson — who performs with husband Shaun in The Bengsons — is doing just that in “The Lucky Ones,” now playing at the historic Connelly Theater in Manhattan’s East Village.

The piece is charming and entertaining, but gripping and emotionally exhausting at the same time. It’s much more emotional, at least to me, than their previous musical, “Hundred Days.”

I regretted waiting so late in the game — not until Black Friday last year at New York Theater Workshop — to see the Bengsons’ first musical, which centered on their quirky love-and-marriage story. By then it was in what seemed like it umpteenth incarnation. I had passed up opportunities to see earlier versions at Joe’s Pub, The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Series, and probably other venues.

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Abigail and Shaun Bengson in January 2017

I have no idea why. But because when I finally did see it, I found “Hundred Days” to be so enjoyable and endearing experience that I wasn’t about to wait too long to see The Bengsons’ next project.

I was thrilled to see that “The Lucky Ones” was getting its world premiere in New York this month, and got the ticket-buying out of the way early.

I braved the brutal weather reports Tuesday, to see the new production’s second performance.

The piece features music and lyrics by The Bengsons, who co-wrote the book with Sarah Gancher, choreography by Sonya Tayeh, and direction by Anne Kauffman. It’s every bit as good as “Hundred Days,” and in some ways even better.

You could call it a prequel to “Hundred Days,” as it looks at Abigail’s family life, the one she alluded to in a dark way in that earlier show, in a New England hippie colony, complete with family dysfunction, infidelity, drugs, community schooling, and all the rest.

It’s presented by Ars Nova  with Wendy vanden Heuvel‘s Piece By Piece Productions  and the San Francisco-based Z Space.

While Abigail is a central character in “The Lucky Ones,” another couple is at the heart of this story: outsider Emma, played by Adina Verson  (of “Indecent”) and Abigail’s cousin, Kai, played by Damon Daunno (“Hadestown”). The rest of the 18-member cast, which is used to great effect by migrating between the theater’s choir loft in the rear to its compact stage down front, is a strong group across the board.

As endearing as Abigail and Shaun’s love story was in “Hundred Days,” they’ve been there and done that. So, I was pleased to see that they kept their joint biography out of the center of the frame of “The Lucky Ones.” Indeed, Shaun’s role is musician, backup vocalist, and narrator, rather than a character in the story.

I won’t spoil it by revealing how the story turns out, but suffice it to say that the story has plenty of tension and tragedy.

The new show’s songs and music are just as good as those in “Hundred Days,” and its story is even more complex and interesting.

See it now. Click HERE for information and tickets, which start at $45. It’s worth every penny.

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