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The Lehman Trilogy

2022 Tony Award Winner for Best Play at Shakespeare Theatre

The Lehman Trilogy at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Hall is a triumph for the three actors who play the brothers, and so many more roles. It is a long play, three acts, a total of three hours and thirty-five minutes, including two fifteen-minute intermissions. Well worth your time in the theater.

From the opening act, which sets the stage for following the brothers and their progeny through generations of building the company, one is captured. Now I admit I didn’t know the whole story of the Lehman Brothers, how they began as cotton merchants in Alabama. So, for two acts, it was fascinating, and went really quickly. It may be I did know how the play ended, or that Lehman Brothers is no more after 2008, but I found the third act a little slow. It seemed to drag on a little to a conclusion we all knew was coming. But even then, the acting was superb. That never wavered throughout the entire production. As Simon Godwin, Artistic Director of the STC said, “between them, the three glorious performers embody 50 characters, covering 160 years of the Lehman family history.”
While it is a serious story of three Jewish brothers from Germany, who build a dynamic business here in the United States; it is often the humor which keeps you enthralled. From how they interact with each other, to how they each play all the other characters in the play. From a baby to a woman, carrying it off with a change in voice, body language, or just funny lines. We are first introduced to Henry Lehman, as the Ellis Island immigration officer names him, after not understanding his real first name, which is Haim. He ends up in Alabama and over years is first joined by his brother Emanuel, and then finally the third and youngest brother, Meyer, who is dubbed potato because of his smooth skin, having no beard. He claims he arrived to be the buffer between his two older brothers. 

The play takes the brothers through their lives, and the life of Lehman Brothers. Henry dies first from cholera, while they are all still in Alabama. After that, and changes in the business, Emanuel, and Meyer (potato), take the business from Alabama to New York. The play moves on to their successes, and their marriages and children. Not only do they talk about them, but play them. Some go into the business, others, like Herbert, went on to become Governor of New York. When they first talked about Herbert, it reminded me of a picture that moved me along the way to a life in politics. It was of my dad, with Adlai Stevenson, and Herbert Lehman, at some dinner. I got addicted to politics, my dad never did. 

The play is directed by the talented Arin Arbus, written by Stefano Massini, and adapted by Ben Power. The actors, Edward Gero as Henry Lehman, Mark Nelson as Meyer Lehman, and René Thornton Jr.  as Emanuel Lehman, are all amazing in all the different characters they play. One has to give such credit to three actors who can carry a three hour play on their shoulders, and talent. 

Then there is the amazing creative team. Scenic Designer, Marsha Ginsberg, is in class of her own. The set is incredible. Then there is Costume Designer, Anita Yavich; Lighting Designer, Yi Zhao; and Sound Designer; Composer, Michael Costagliola; and Projection Designer, Hannah Wasileski. This play is enhanced by work of the Physical Movement Coordinator, Lorenzo Pisoni. 

All in all, The Lehman Trilogy is a play not to be missed. It will be at the Harman through March 30th and tickets are available online. Get yours today. The show is selling fast and has already been extended.