Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

The Lion
Touring Production
Review by Bill Eadie | Season Schedule

Also see David's recent review of Art

Benjamin Scheuer
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Benjamin Scheuer, the writer and performer of The Lion, is a young man, and his tale is a young man's tale. It's told as a song cycle that's based on his own life so far, and the 2015 Manhattan Theatre Club production won Mr. Scheuer a Drama Desk Award for solo performance. The Old Globe has sponsored a stop for the show's tour, and it plays here through October 30.

On stage are a half dozen guitars, and becoming a man through developing his own guitar style is a major theme of the show. Mr. Scheuer begins his tale as a child, and the instruments he plays (and the manner in which he plays them) are pretty rudimentary, but the guitars get better as the show progresses, and so does the technique. By the end of the 60-minute, no intermission, performance, Mr. Scheuer has demonstrated his mastery as a guitar artist.

His story is one of life interrupted. His father, who originally started teaching him to play guitar, died of a brain aneurism when Mr. Scheuer was 13. They had fought over a grade, and they had not reconciled when the father was struck. In many ways, Mr. Scheuer felt lost and didn't entirely regain his footing until after weathering his own health crisis.

Fifteen songs may explain a fair amount, but in toto they'll just gloss over even a young life. There's so much that gets left out, and one wonders what and why. On stage, Mr. Scheuer presents himself as boyish and charismatic. Most of his songs are from the heart, though they're smart enough that one knows the head is involved as well. But, a lot goes unexplained.

Mom and two brothers make appearances and then disappear for long periods of time only to reappear when crisis hits. There's a girlfriend, too. She leaves, seemingly to "find herself." She doesn't come back. Mr. Scheuer goes through several iterations of himself (though, he wears a suit throughout that is just jaunty enough to be "casual" in style). Like a lot of things in the production, the suit seems to be a device, perhaps a piece of soft armor that pretends to mean something (Jennifer Caprio is credited as costume consultant).

The guitars are real, though, and their symbolism doesn't feel contrived. They are meticulously placed around the stage (scenic design by Neil Patel), along with microphones for both voice and guitar (sound design by Leon Rothenberg). Under Sean Daniels' sensible direction, Mr. Scheuer moves from one guitar to the next, each one with a story on its mind.

But it all comes back to his father, who, it turns out, may have loved mathematics but worked as an investment manager, according to his obituary in The New York Times. It wasn't until Mr. Scheuer could work through his relationship with his father that he realized that being able to "roar like a lion" was only part of the solution to his "becoming a man" problem.

Musically, the show casts its spell expertly. As a life story, though, there's too much that feels incomplete.

The Lion performs through October 30, 2016, evenings Tuesdays through Sundays, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday, in the Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, located in San Diego's Balboa Park. Tickets are available by calling (619) 234-523 or visiting For more information on the tour, visit