‘The Keep Going Songs’ Review: Vexed by Grief and Worried About the Planet

Not a lot of Lincoln Center Theater shows call for setting the preperformance mood with the Grateful Dead, but when “Uncle John’s Band” came over the speakers the other evening before the Bengsons took the stage, it was such an ideal match for their crunchy, mellow, kindhearted, folk-rock vibe that I had to smile.

In Abigail and Shaun Bengson’s “The Keep Going Songs,” though, it’s the dead with a lowercase “d” who are integral. This married couple of music-makers, known for shaggy, melodic, autobiographically inspired theater, wanted to create what they call “a concert. That’s also a wake.”

Directed by Caitlin Sullivan for LCT3, the show is a musing on death: of human beings, and of our planet. The pairing doesn’t entirely work organically. Still, the seeming intent is a processing of grief.

“If you’re in this room,” Abigail tells the audience at the Claire Tow Theater, “we assume you are going through something terrible.”

Shaun adds: “And if you’re not, then we don’t want to hear about it.” (Is he joking? He’s very dry. Hard to tell.)

As Abigail notes, the show is front-loaded with grief. She mentions almost immediately that her brother died the day she and Shaun were asked to do this Lincoln Center run. The hurt of that loss is in fact threaded throughout “The Keep Going Songs,” which, by the way, is a new piece. Despite the title and the shared motif of perseverance, it is unrelated to the Bengsons’ pandemic-inspired show “The Keep Going Song,” with its upbeat, earworm title tune.

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