Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Lion—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

Weathering the Storm

This one-man musical journey is written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer and directed by Sean Daniels.  It is playing in the Ellyn Bye Studio at PCS, 128 NW 11th Ave., through June 14th.  (Please be aware that it is only street parking, or a lot, or public transportation, in a very busy area of Portland, so plan your time accordingly.)  For more information, go to their site at www.pcs.org or call 503-445-3700.

Journeys through the mind can be a tough row to hoe.  It can be painful, cathartic, joyful, sad and regretful, all at the same time.  Memories are not the way things happened, necessarily, but they are the way we think they happened.  Once we insert our own bias, ego, imagination, moods and temperament into the mix, we come up with a conglomeration of our own making…a world within a world.  And putting it to music creates its own rhythm.

Scheuer’s journey was not easy but something good came out of it--this show.  “Every cloud has a silver lining” and this is his.  But his story is not his alone, not just because there are other characters introduced into it but because it relates to all of us and our own stories.  We are all made up of stories…and stories within stories…and part of other people’s stories.  As this is told in a story-telling style it becomes accessible to everyone.

Claudie Jean Fisher, PR Manager for PCS, quotes the director, Daniels, “We want it to feel like it’s your friend coming over to your house and telling you this story….baring his soul to you……..It’s this art form’s competitive advantage.”  His adventure begins with growing up in a household in NYC with younger brothers.  At an early age he had an interest in music and he and his brothers formed a band.  His father, a guitarist and singer, and a math teacher, made him a banjo out of a cookie tin but never seemed to fully approve of his interest in music and would often have fits of temper.  Later he would understand why.

Some songs Ben sings concern lessons he learned from his father.  It’s not how hard you are hit in life that is important but how you weather the storm.  And, also, what makes a Lion, a Lion?  Is it his roar?  Later in life Ben learns the answer.  He also meets the girl of his dreams, Julia, and expresses in song why he loves her and he explains, “she makes me laugh” and “loving her will be easy.”  But Life doesn’t give you all sunshine, as he finds out the hard way.  And then tragedy strikes even closer to home and he discovers what is really important in Life and who he is.  “I learned to play like me.”

Can’t tell you all the details because they are for an audience to discover.  But Scheuer does convince us that he is just an old friend stopping by to visit and, oh, by the way, listen to my story, if you will.  And we do…and we applaud…and we identify with him.  We, too, have learned something today.  We and he are not too different after all.

Daniels has kept the show simple so not to intrude on the homey atmosphere.  The set (Neil Patel) also adds to that homey feeling but the wallpaper may take us a step deeper into Ben’s world, as it has the appearance of a golden jungle, or possibly, the “golden castle town,” as Scheuer refers to NYC.  And the lighting (Ben Stanton) is rarely static, giving us the feel that Ben is always moving in his journey, never really settling anywhere, physically or emotionally, for long.  They all lend their parts wonderfully to complete the whole.  (A side note, I noticed Katie Watkins is the Assistant to the Director, and I’m sure she is as fine at this job, as she was in the marketing area and my contact for Portland Playhouse.  Best to you, young lady!)


I recommend this show.  Saturday night’s show was full to overflowing and he received a much-deserved standing ovation.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.