The Lehman Trilogy

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The Lehman Trilogy
Written byStefano Massini
Date premieredOctober 8, 2013
Place premieredComédie de Saint-Étienne (Saint-Étienne)
Original languageItalian
SubjectLehman Brothers

The Lehman Trilogy is a three-act play by Italian novelist and playwright Stefano Massini. It follows the lives of three immigrant brothers from when they arrived in America and founded an investment firm through the collapse of the company in 2008. It has been translated into 24 languages, staged by such directors as Luca Ronconi and Sam Mendes,[1] and was later published as a novel in English.[2] An English translation of the play by Mirella Cheeseman[3] was produced in the West End in 2018 by the National Theatre. The production was directed by Sam Mendes and included the cast of Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles. It earned five Laurence Olivier Award nominations.

The production made its Broadway transfer in March 2020 and performed briefly before the COVID-19 pandemic. The play resumed performances in fall 2021 with Adrian Lester replacing Ben Miles. The production received universal critical acclaim and eight Tony Award nominations, winning five awards including for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play for Sam Mendes, and Best Actor in a Play for Simon Russell Beale.

Productions[edit]

The Lehman Trilogy opened at Comédie de Saint-Étienne in Saint-Étienne in a French translation. In 2015 Luca Ronconi directed the Italian premiere, at Piccolo Teatro in Milan. The play was eventually translated and staged in several cities across Europe.[4]

Translated by Mirella Cheeseman, adapted by British playwright Ben Power from Massini's epic poem,[5] and directed by British director Sam Mendes, the play made its English debut in London at the National Theatre[6] in the Lyttelton Theatre, running from 12 July 2018 to 20 October 2018.[7][8]

The National Theatre's staging of the play transferred to the United States at the Park Avenue Armory, in New York City, from 22 March 2019 to 20 April 2019.[9]

This production then returned to the West End Piccadilly Theatre starting on 11 May 2019 for a limited twelve week run, which was extended for another 4 weeks, ending on 31 August 2019.[10][11]

The National Theatre production was set to revisit the United States, originally to open on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre on 7 March 2020 in previews, officially on 26 March. Adam Godley, Ben Miles, and Simon Russell Beale, who play the three title brothers, their sons, and grandsons, would reprise their performances.[12][13][14] As of 12 March 2020, the show suspended production due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15] In June 2021, it was reported that The Lehman Trilogy would reopen in previews on 25 September 2021 and officially on 14 October. Godley and Beale would return to the production, while Adrian Lester would replace Miles.[16] The Broadway production's final performance was on 2 January 2022.[17]

The National Theatre production appeared at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in a limited engagement from 3 March 2022 through 10 April 2022, starring Godley, Beale, and Howard W. Overshown, Miles' understudy from the Broadway production.[18] The production was scheduled to continue in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater,[18] but was indefinitely postponed on 3 March 2022 with the National Theatre Productions Managing Director citing "a myriad of obstacles that left us unable to say with confidence when the show can arrive in the Bay Area".[19]

The production returned to London's West End at the Gillian Lynne Theatre for a limited season from 14 January to 20 May 2023, starring Nigel Lindsay, Michael Balogun and Hadley Fraser.[20]

Overview[edit]

Mendes said: "The Lehman Trilogy was developed over three years without the constraint of a schedule, or even a plan — it was allowed time to find its form, and to build a wonderful team with which to make it. One of the chief joys has been to work across borders with two great writers, and to invite three of the finest actors of their generation to work with us. We are indebted to the National Theatre and the Park Avenue Armory for their unstinting support throughout..."[9]

The original play lasts for five hours[21] and Power has written it into a three-hour English version. With a cast of only three actors, Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles, and Adam Godley, the play explores the vicissitude of American capitalism through the 164-year-history of Lehman Brothers, from when Henry Lehman, a German Jew, first migrated to the U.S. and opened his store in Alabama, to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. that exacerbated the 2008 financial crisis.

Cast[edit]

Role Milan London Off-Broadway West End Broadway Los Angeles West End Revival
2015 2018 2019 2021 2022 2023
Henry Lehman Massimo De Francovich Simon Russell Beale Nigel Lindsay
Emanuel Lehman Fabrizio Gifuni Ben Miles Adrian Lester Howard W. Overshown Michael Balogun
Mayer Lehman Massimo Popolizio Adam Godley Hadley Fraser

The three actors not only play the three Lehman brothers who founded the business but all other roles. They play their children and grandchildren, including Philip Lehman (son of Emanuel, played by Simon Russell Beale), Herbert Lehman (son of Mayer, played by Ben Miles), and Robert Lehman (son of Philip, played by Adam Godley), as well as various minor characters[22] during the unfolding of family history such as wives, toddlers, and business partners, although they never change the original costume – tailored three-piece suits often seen in 19th-century portraits of men. The understudies for the roles of Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer Lehman at the National Theatre were Leighton Pugh, Dominik Tiefenthaler, and Will Harrison-Wallace, respectively. Tiefenthaler replaced Miles during the show's run at the Piccadilly Theatre.

Reviews[edit]

The play has been highly praised by critics for "the successful adaptation that both preserves the essence, the poetic language of the original play and makes it more succinct"; "the elegant, well-paced direction that narrates with simplicity, depth and richness"; and "the superb, versatile acting of the cast, who seem to metamorphose at will with the characters they put on". The set design by Es Devlin – a rotating glass box furnished in the style of a contemporary office, as well as the video projection in the back stage that accompany the set, showing the changing landscapes in time and space during the development of the business and American capitalism created by Luke Halls, also made a great impression.[23] Both The Guardian and The Times give the play a five-star mark. The New York Times called the Broadway production "captivating" and "a vividly human tale, nimbly performed by three of the finest actors around".[24]

The play has been critiqued for not mentioning the Lehman family's involvement with slavery. Sarah Churchwell, writing for The New York Review of Books, criticized the play for "profoundly underplaying not only the firm’s deep entanglement in the slave economy, but also that of the brothers themselves, who held slaves for at least twenty years."[25] The Washington Post's Richard Cohen wrote that the play was "silent" on the issue of slavery and that the playwright should have addressed the topic because "To not mention slavery is in itself a statement — of disinterest, of unimportance, of lesser importance, of something. Would an American playwright, confronted on a daily basis with the economic, cultural and historical ramifications of slavery, have made the same decision? I can’t imagine it."[26]

Dave Rich accused the play of perpetuating negative, historical stereotypes about Jews and money. writing in The Observer, said:

It is gratuitous and overwhelming, far beyond what is necessary to convey the biographical fact that the Lehmans were Jewish. It leaves you feeling that this is not only a play about bankers who are Jews, but a play about Jews who are bankers. And what does it tell us about these Jews? Mainly that they love money and will do anything to get more of it...The Lehman Brothers did not invent the role of middlemen or brokers and they weren’t the only ones to perform this role, but you wouldn’t know that from the play. The charge that Jews are economic parasites, generating unproductive profit from the honest toil of others, has been a staple of anti-Jewish propaganda for centuries.[27]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original London production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2018 Evening Standard Theatre Award Best Play Nominated [28]
[29]
2019 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Play Nominated [30]
Best Actor Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles Nominated
Best Director Sam Mendes Nominated
Best Set Design Es Devlin Nominated
Best Sound Design Nick Powell and Dominic Bilkey Nominated

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2022 Drama League Awards Outstanding Production of a Play Won [31]
Outstanding Director of a Play Sam Mendes Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Simon Russell Beale Nominated
2022 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Play Won [32]
Outstanding Actor in a Play Simon Russell Beale Won
Adam Godley Nominated
Adrian Lester Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Play Sam Mendes Won
Outstanding Scenic Design (Play or Musical) Es Devlin Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design (Play or Musical) Jon Clark Won
Outstanding Sound Design (Play or Musical) Nick Powell and Dominic Bilkey Won
Outstanding Video/Projection Design (Play or Musical) Luke Halls Won
2022 Tony Awards Best Play Won [33]
Best Actor in a Play Simon Russell Beale Won
Adam Godley Nominated
Adrian Lester Nominated
Best Direction of a Play Sam Mendes Won
Best Scenic Design in a Play Es Devlin Won
Best Lighting Design in a Play Jon Clark Won
Best Sound Design of a Play Nick Powell and Dominik Bilkey Nominated

Novel[edit]

The story was further developed into a novel published in Italian in 2016 under the title Qualcosa sui Lehman,[34] and appeared in English in 2020 as The Lehman Trilogy, translated by Richard Dixon.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Giulio Einaudi (ed.). "Stefano Massini, Lehman Trilogy, Libri, Einaudi". www.einaudi.it. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  2. ^ Massini, Stefano (2020). The Lehman Trilogy. Translated by Dixon, Richard. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 9780062940445.
  3. ^ ""The Lehman Trilogy" is a Masterpiece". National Review. 13 April 2019.
  4. ^ Lehman Trilogy doppiozero.com (in Italian), 2014
  5. ^ Nguyen, Sophia (February 29, 2024). "Why the Financial Drama of 'The Lehman Trilogy' Doesn't Quite Work". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  6. ^ Angelini, Francesca. "The Italian playwright Stefano Massini on The Lehman Trilogy". The Times. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  7. ^ The Lehman Trilogy nationaltheatre.org.uk, accessed 6 March 2019
  8. ^ McPhee, Ryan. "What Did Critics Think of 'The Lehman Trilogy' at London's National Theatre?" playbill, July 13, 2018
  9. ^ a b Clement, Olivia. " 'The Lehman Trilogy' to Transfer to West End in Spring 2019" Playbill, October 15, 2018
  10. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy. " 'The Lehman Trilogy' Will Transfer to the West End's Piccadilly Theatre" broadway.com, October 15, 2018
  11. ^ "The Lehman Trilogy Begins in the West End May 11", www.playbill.com
  12. ^ Clement, Olivia. " The Lehman Trilogy to Open on Broadway Playbill, September 3, 2019
  13. ^ "Broadway Shuts Down: Performances Canceled Through April 12 Due to COVID-19 Pandemic". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  14. ^ Paulson, Michael (2020-04-08). "Broadway Will Remain Closed at Least Until June, and Probably Longer". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  15. ^ Clement, Olivia (May 12, 2020). "Check the Statuses of Broadway Shows During the Coronavirus Shutdown". Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  16. ^ Evans, Greg (2021-06-04). "'The Lehman Trilogy' Sets Broadway Reopening – Without Scott Rudin". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  17. ^ "The Lehman Trilogy | Official Site". The Lehman Trilogy. Retrieved 2022-01-02.
  18. ^ a b "Cast Set for Los Angeles Bow of The Lehman Trilogy". Playbill. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  19. ^ Janiak, Lily (March 2, 2022). "'The Lehman Trilogy' postponed at American Conservatory Theater". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  20. ^ Lukowski, Andrzej. "The Lehman Trilogy returns to the West End for 2023". Time Out London. Retrieved 2022-11-20.
  21. ^ Brantely, Ben (13 July 2018). "Review: 'The Lehman Trilogy' Is a Transfixing Epic of Riches and Ruin". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  22. ^ Billington, Michael (13 July 2018). "The Lehman Trilogy review – Mendes is on the money with astonishing saga". The Guardian.
  23. ^ Morgan, Fergus. "The Lehman Trilogy at the National Theatre – review round-up". The Stage. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  24. ^ Collins-Hughes, Laura (2021-10-15). "Review: In 'The Lehman Trilogy,' a Vivid Tale of Profit and Pain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-01-02.
  25. ^ "'The Lehman Trilogy' and Wall Street's Debt to Slavery". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2022-05-21.
  26. ^ "The hole at the heart of 'The Lehman Trilogy'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2022-05-21.
  27. ^ Rich, David (25 February 2023). "Antisemitic tropes are back on stage again". The Observer.
  28. ^ "Read the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2018 shortlist in full". www.standard.co.uk. 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  29. ^ Foster, Robert Dex, Alistair (2018-11-20). "Best Actress Sophie Okonedo 'loves Ralph Fiennes to death every night'". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-02-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ Olivier Awards 2019 winners & nominees, Society of London Theatre, 7 April 2019
  31. ^ Rosky, Nicole. "2022 Drama League Awards Nominations Announced- Full List!". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  32. ^ "The Lehman Trilogy, Kimberly Akimbo & Harmony Lead 2022 Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  33. ^ Lewis, Hilary (June 12, 2022). "Tony Awards: Winners List (Updating Live)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  34. ^ "Qualcosa sui Lehman - Stefano Massini".
  35. ^ "The Lehman Trilogy".

External links[edit]