Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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."