Sometimes the best stories are the bitter-sweet memories we offer as lessons for others, no matter the cost in the telling.
The Lion, both honestly written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, is among that precious group. A story of growing up, physically and emotionally, of loss and of finding yourself, of seeing the world in all its shades of white and black, The Lion delivers an insightful monologue through its story and music.
In the beginning Scheuer approaches the stage very comfortable and casual. So casual that you may find yourself wondering if he harbors the ability to be as emotionally vulnerable as his script allows. However, as each story and each song unfolds so does Ben. Layer by layer Scheuer welcomes us deeper into some very personal and intimate details of his life. By the end you will feel that you know him, that you were not at a show- but chatting with a close friend as he plunked around on his guitar while telling you secrets. This casualness is the beauty of Scheuer’s relationship with the audience, a refreshing breath of comfortable honesty rather than a dramatized spectacle.
Scheuer’s music, be it folk or rock, gets right to the core of his life, engaging us along. Though sometimes simple in lyric and tune, Scheuer delivers his song with heart and genuine self, making it akin to a full orchestra of sound and pain and laughter and tears. This style of musicianship leaves audience members questioning if he has other recorded music out there to get (which he does of course).
He artfully travels the stage, making use of his veritable army of guitars, as he travels through his own life. The scenic design, by Neil Patel, was a perfectly un-intrusive studio space. The apartment bore the precise detail to make it seem livable and it’s curved wall opened the focus for the three sided audience. The walls were colored in just right to accent the simple but elegantly effective lighting by Ben Stanton. Scheuer ’s pace and movement lent to an excellent flow to the short piece, a testament to Sean Daniels.
The Lion runs a little over an hour with no intermission, playing now through July 13th at MTC Stage II at the New York City Center. The Lion is a must see thought-provoking masterpiece…but bring tissues for this one!
Review By: Staci Morin & Paul Morin
Photo By: Matthew Murphy