Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Lion
Arena Stage
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule


Benjamin Scheuer
Photo by Matthew Murphy
With his acoustic guitars and folk-inflected tunes, Benjamin Scheuer recalls the singer-songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s, but his solo musical, The Lion, is quite different in its aim: a coming-of-age story told through a sequence of songs, accessible and totally disarming.

Scheuer is touring this work following a New York run and his Washington stop in the Kogod Cradle at Arena Stage is a perfect fit: warm, intimate, all-encompassing. The performance runs 70 minutes and chronicles the artist's efforts to understand his life to the present moment, all told in a straightforward style with no self-pity.

Lest anyone worry that a relatively young performer's examination of his life will be either pretentious or just irritating, understand that Scheuer has a winning presence and his life experiences are out of the ordinary. He discovered his love for music as a small child, when his father would play the guitar and sing and made a homemade toy banjo so young Ben could play along. Ben, along with his two younger brothers, took up music himself in childhood, but many other things happened to him as the years passed, including conflict between father and son as Ben entered his teens, a parent's premature death, a family move from New York City to England, a transformative romance, and a life-threatening illness.

Director Sean Daniels has staged The Lion simply; Neil Patel's set contains a semicircular rear wall, several chairs, and the many different guitars Scheuer uses as he shifts from one part of his life to the next. (He briefly sets aside the acoustic instruments for an electric guitar from the period when he created "angry but awesome rock songs.") Ben Stanton's lighting design uses a circle of visible overhead bulbs to shift the mood subtly from introspective to "onstage."

Arena Stage
The Lion
Through April 10th, 2016
Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer
Directed by Sean Daniels
Kogod Cradle, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Sixth and Maine avenues SW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or www.arenastage.org


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