The Lion at City Theatre | Theater Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Lion at City Theatre 

It’s impossible to overstate Scheuer’s enormous charm as a performer

Benjamin Scheuer in The Lion, at City Theatre

Photo courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Benjamin Scheuer in The Lion, at City Theatre

It was Freud who suggested that no boy becomes a man until his father dies. As with a lot of Freud, it’s hooey. But singer/songwriter Benjamin Scheuer is making Freud’s case as writer/performer of the award-winning, autobiographical one-man show The Lion, currently on tour and having a sit-down at City Theatre.

As a child, Scheuer was enthralled by his pop, a mathematical academic who, on the side, played guitar and instilled in young Scheuer a love of music. But life at home wasn’t all a big Von Trapp fantasy; daddy had a dark side, too — an imperious attitude coupled with fits of rage. It was during the week of a protracted battle between the two that the father died from a brain malfunction, leaving Ben with lifelong guilt and anger.

I was initially downhearted finding myself in the middle of a “Daddy, Why Don’t You Love Me?” story (which, next to plays about suburban infidelity, are my least favorite). And, too, I think guitars (of which the show boasts seven) are the worst thing to happen to music besides the Moog synthesizer.
I bring all that up so you’ll know what an enchanting achievement The Lion turns out to be. Fate has a few more punches in store for Scheuer, and he weaves those events, and his emotional journey, into a work of intelligence and talent.

It’s impossible to overstate his enormous charm as a performer. With the assistance of only Neil Patel’s quietly evocative set and Ben Stanton’s expressive lighting design (plus those guitars), Scheuer creates a shimmering evening in which he pulls us into the action and his life. A musical virtuoso, Scheuer makes the guitars a central element, bringing the exact colors and shading he needs to tell his story. Sean Daniels directs and knows when to push Scheuer forward and when to let him take a back seat to the music.

I don’t know that much about this type of music (which could be described as coffeehouse confessional), but I do know that much of it was moving, and that Scheuer’s performance of it was specific and strong.

There’s a great deal to love about this Lion.

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