The Keep Going Song
Created and performed by The Bengsons
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
The opening images are of a firefly dancing in the twilight as voices fill the space around it, one of which creates an ominous droning tone. In spite of the visual lyricism, here is immediately established a spooky otherworldly atmosphere. Are we in a horror movie?
Given that this is Shaun and Abigail Bengson, it is impossible to imagine, but the feeling recognizes the pall of a pandemic now in its sixth month, the sense of the entire community in limbo, a massive social “clench”.
The Bengson’s seek to soothe and relax us filming themselves in and around the Ohio residence where they have been quarantined with family. They begin with a light-hearted improvisation of the title song that lightens the mood and captures the uncertainty of the time, but most of the songs examine the importance of personal identity and spirituality during a crisis.
Some of the sentiments express the common hope for normalcy and economic sustainability, “…money coming in and for good things to happen”, and it touches upon the pent-up frustration that is the unifying thread, the thing that undermines the polarized social discourse that dominates the media. At other moments the lyrics are informed by a profound feminist sensibility, as Abigail lends her rich clarion voice and elastic phrasing to, “Joyfully, I Am A Woman” and powerfully articulates intimidating patriarchy from a vision received while in labor in “Line of Fathers.”
Abigail’s colorful and slightly eccentric delivery follows a long tradition of folk singing, and Shaun’s low-key and more reserved manner makes for a nice compliment. The balance between them is a harmony beyond voices, a soothing balm for an audience weighed down by the anxiety and depression of isolation and social distance.
“Pray that when we come together that the world has changed and is the world that we imagine together.”
In such a production, the impact of visual design is necessarily limited, but we are given a glimpse of the Bengson’s pandemic refuge, which is exactly on point, and the studio portions are softly lit and the couple sport colorful clothing that aesthetically matches the painting seen behind them.
Intercut among the studio performances is a ritual resembling a tea ceremony, plaintive and calming, but with mismatched ceramic cups filled from a child’s juice box. It is an apt evocation of the show’s blend of whimsy and grace.
The Bengsons recognize our shared struggle while delivering positive affirmation of human resilience. The Keep Going Song ends in a moment of pastoral reverie before a postscript that reminds us that even in the midst of a global pandemic, life continues moving forward.
The Keep Going Song
Available through online streaming August 14 – October 8, 2020
Actors Theatre DirectActors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.