In The Writer's World
Photo by Patrick Weishampel

Photo by Patrick Weishampel

The Lion, Portland Center Stage’s most recent offering in the intimate Ellyn Bye Studio, is a small show that delivers a huge punch.

Starting out with a hero father and a cookie tin banjo, and the desire to play music just like his dad, writer-performer Benjamin Scheuer tells the story of that relationship and of his relationship with his nuclear family through original songs and dialog.

The show, to me, is reminiscent of Storm Large’s Crazy Enough, staged a few years back also in the Ellyn Bye. But while there is a familiar arc of innocence followed by tragedy, disillusionment, and disassociation, The Lion is equally large but different. The landscapes of families can be complicated and difficult to navigate. Important bonds may be severed. During certain stages of life, misperceptions occur–or, for one reason or another, things are not as they seem, particularly when clouded by family crisis.

This is the tale of a derailed young man dealing in the best way he can with all of the above, and trying to do it alone. The show began as several songs from the album The Bridge Scheuer had written with his band Escapist Papers. Eventually, the stories Scheuer told between songs morphed into the idea for a musical. But it was not until he met director Sean Daniels that Scheuer’s ideas really took form. As Scheuer told Playbill, “It was Sean who was my mentor and guide…dramaturg and editor and encourager and psychologist and best pal….”

And whatever Daniels cooked up at those breakfasts the two shared during their time working on the script at Weston Playhouse in Vermont,  it took. This is a beautiful show that perfectly exemplifies Leonard Cohen’s words, “There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in….” It runs through June 14 at Portland Center Stage.

 

 

 

 

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  • Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the review…want to see it!

  • Ginny Adelsheim says:

    Judy,
    I loved The Lion, as you know, and was looking forward to your review, which beautifully and succinctly describes Benjamin Scheuers life struggles and what went into making The Lion. It is a stunning feat that he formed them into such a mesmerizing one man show. For me, the truth that emerges from this work is the healing power of music–his fathers greatest gift to him and ultimately his salvation. Thanks for a great review, Judy!

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