Ben Scheuer is a natural born storyteller who was given a traumatic story to tell: his own. He lost his father at the age of 13, and at 28 he was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkins lymphoma, and both of these events inform the songs and the story of The Lion, his Drama Desk Award-winning solo performance piece that opened this past week at ACT's Strand Theater.
The Lion begins as a witty and personal tale of a young boy's relationship with his often difficult mathematician father, with whom the one thing he can share is a passion for music. Listening to his father play guitar and improvise songs about his three sons on the fly one of which imagines them all as young lion cubs Ben only wants to learn how to play like his dad. When his dad is taken out of his life at a young age, it begins a quest to become the kind of musician and songwriter who can keep an audience riveted, and delighted, for 70 minutes just telling them stories about his life, his first love, and his own unexpected brush with mortality.
Scheuer is a wildly talented guitarist and songwriter who moves about the stage playing from a selection of a half dozen guitars, and delivering a cycle of a dozen terrific original songs, each as melodic and thoughtful as the next, with a surplus of unique wit and wisdom in their words. The song "Loving You Will Be Easy," written for an ex-girlfriend, is an especially catchy and smart example.
Scheuer's disarming strength is the frankness with which he discusses the most personal and difficult moments in his life, and just when The Lion threatens to veer into self-indulgence, Scheuer pulls it back to the universal and disarms us again with a song.
If nothing else, The Lion once again proves how art can grow from the fertile soils of personal hardship, and sadness, and in affirming his own life in these songs, Scheuer helps us all affirm the meaning in our own.
The Lion plays through May 1 at The Strand. Tickets here. $15 rush tickets are also available starting at 10 a.m. for each day's performance via TodayTix.