Reviewed by Judd Hollander
Told in what can best be described as a continual stream of consciousness, the Broadway play The Lehman Trilogy recounts the rise and fall of what would become a global financial institution. As seen through the eyes of those who made it possible - for better and for worse.
Winningly adapted by Ben Power from
Stefano Massini's sprawling novel, the tale begins in 1844 when German
immigrant Heyum Lehmann (Simon Russell Beale) steps off the boat in
(l-r) Adam Godley, Simon Russell Beale, and Adrian Lester; photo by: Julieta Cervantes.
However the stronger and more diversified the entity that will eventually be known as Lehman Brothers becomes, the more tentacles are required to keep its fingers on the pulse of its ever-increasing endeavors. Dry goods, cotton, computers and railroads being only a few of their involvements. The ever-increasing need for the company to deliver huge profits and continually be on the cutting edge of the next big thing eventually becoming its undoing.
Examining the idea of capitalism at its most basic, The Lehman Trilogy is a tale of the American Dream and it what can represent. A premise explored through those who first become successful, and then do whatever is necessary to retain everything they have achieved. Also present is the innate desire for one to do better than those who have come before. Something visible not only in the Lehman family, but in the offspring of a Greek diner owner and a Hungarian lamp maker. Each determined to reach as high as they can and find their own personal pot of gold. At the same time, the play also shows the bitter reality that no matter how much one may have earned – either in capital or respect - a new generation will always replace the old. A reality that becomes laced with more than a little irony when those who cast the original Lehman founders aside eventually find themselves in that same situation.
Also evident is an ever-growing cynicism about how one must operate in order to continue to succeed. Especially when the concepts of marketing and public relations are introduced. Along with the premise of getting people to buy what they don't need. This truth is also mixed in with humor when one of the family begins to question concepts others have long accepted as tradition. As well as when one of the Lehman clan comes up with a long check list of items necessary in a potential wife. (Love not being on the list.)
(l-r) Adam Godley, Simon Russell Beale, Adrian Lester. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
Told with just three principal actors,
each playing multiple rules and alternating as the narrator, the performers are
not only able to bring to life their various characters, but also the eras in
which they inhabit. Beale, who along with Godley came over from the original
The actors are helped tremendously
by the strong use of Luke Hall's video design. Images which range from the
cotton fields of
Taking a complex multi-generational tale and stripping it down to its bare essentials, The Lehman Trilogy is magnificent as it highlights elements of pride, determination and a person's insatiable need be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Adrian Lester. Photo by Julieta Cervantes
Featuring: Simon Russell Beale (Henry Lehman), Adam Godley (Mayer Lehman), Adrian Lester (Emanuel Lehman), Aaron Krohn (Janitor)
Pianist: Candida Caldicot
Alternate Pianist: Gillian Berkowitz
Associate Music Coordinator: Kimberlee Wertz
The Lehman Trilogy
by Stefano Massini
Adapted by Ben Power
Costume Design: Katrina Lindsay
Video Design: Luke Halls
Lighting Design: Jon Clark
Composer and Sound Design: Nick Powell
Co-Sound Design: Dominic Bilkey
Music Director: Candida Caldicot
Movement: Polly Bennett
Associate Director: Zoe Ford Burnett
U.S. General Manager: Wagner Johnson Productions
Casting: Wendy Spon CDG & Jim
Press Representative: DKC/O&M
Production Stage Manager: David Lober
Associate General Manager: Megan Curren
Company Manager: Deirdre Murphy
Scenic Design: Es Devlin
Directed by Sam Mendes
The Nederlander Theatre
Running time 3 hours, 25 minutes, with two intermissions