Canadian Stage/The Lehman Trilogy, written by Stefano Massini, tailored by Ben Energy, directed by Philip Akin, Bluma Appel Theatre, till Dec. 2. Tickets right here.
Think about a tower of large gold bars, and you’ve got Camellia Koo’s creative set for the Canadian premiere of esteemed Italian playwright/novelist Stefano Massini’s mind-boggling epic The Lehman Trilogy.
Since this can be a play concerning the historical past of the Lehman brothers and their rise to capitalist glory, what higher playground is there for them to run up, down and throughout than the enchanting spectre of gold.
The three German-Jewish Lehman brothers arrived in the USA from Rimpar, Bavaria, the primary in 1844, looking for the American dream. Henry (the Head), Emmanuel (the Arm) and Mayer (the Potato) — performed by Ben Carlson, Graeme Somerville and Jordon Pettle, respectively — settle in antebellum Montgomery, Alabama. (You’ll should see The Lehman Trilogy to know the nicPHilip knames.) The playwright doesn’t clarify how these immigrants ended up in Alabama, of all locations, however I certain am fascinated to know why.
By the system of storytelling/narration, interpolated by temporary scenes, The Lehman Trilogy traces the brothers from the standard beginnings of their dry items retailer in Montgomery, by constructing their fortune as middlemen cotton brokers, to ending up proudly owning one the world’s largest funding banks. It’s not all plain details. Massini can be a author of sly wit.
The brilliance of the Lehmans was that they have been capable of survive catastrophes such because the Civil Conflict and the inventory market crash of 1929 whereas incomes income the place they might, reminiscent of investing in struggle matériel. Opportunism was their key to success, manifested by recognizing a successful ticket after they noticed it, like tobacco, railroads or computer systems. They even invested within the huge hit film King Kong.
In fact, Lehman Brothers is infamously identified in the present day for its spectacular 2008 collapse, partially because of the subprime mortgage debacle, which triggered one of many worst monetary crises for the reason that Nice Despair. The play ends with this demise, however no Lehman was on the board on the time. The final precise Lehman to guide the financial institution was Robert (Bobby) who handed away in 1969. One wonders if there had been a Lehman in 2008, would the agency have survived?
Apparently, the unique 2014 play in Italian ran for 5 hours and so, for the primary English language manufacturing in 2018, the nice director Sam Mendes labored with author Ben Energy to cut back the fabric to a 3 hour, 20 minute model with two intermissions.
What is totally astonishing is that the above talked about three actors play all of the elements brilliantly which incorporates the brothers, wives, sons, and grandsons, to not point out each different particular person they encounter. Every man is beautifully plausible, though there are missed phrases, notably from Somerville. Nonetheless, it’s a feat of performing that have to be seen.
Revered director Philip Akin has given us a mesmerizing stage image that has Carlson, Somerville and Pettle negotiate their manner by the set, lifting lids on the gold bars to tug out props as wanted, or pushing bullion chests round to animate storylines. They will need to have been in coaching for months earlier than taking over these roles.
As a result of these are three of the best actors within the nation, Akin had the instruments in hand to distinguish between the assorted generations of the Lehman dynasty. That solely a trio of performers are carrying off this present is solely astounding. The over three hours fly by.
Steve Lucas’s lighting may be very imaginative, notably his particular results, whereas Dana Osborne’s white shirts and black fits work by each technology. I additionally like the truth that there isn’t a music. Miquelon Rodriguez’s soundscape cleverly consists of solely reasonable noises.
There have been complaints levelled towards Massini’s play, the brothers making a revenue on the backs of slaves, for instance. Or, that their perceived greed for cash is an antisemitic salvo. I reply by saying that the rise of the Lehmans is the play’s trajectory. The viewers can take away their very own ideas concerning the brothers’ seeming lack of guilt about slavery, and that they have been empire-building Jews is solely a matter of truth. This isn’t a play about wokeness.
My solely criticism is the ending. As soon as Bobby Lehman is gone, only a temporary few scenes take us by to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which isn’t very properly defined. I do, nevertheless, notice that Massini couldn’t go away the financial institution nonetheless standing.
That cavil apart, ensure you get your self to the Bluma Appel Theatre for this monumental enterprise. The Lehman Trilogy is the sort of sensible, provocative theatre that you do not need to overlook.
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