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“The Lehman Trilogy” tells how the three original Lehman brothers emigrated from Bavaria to Alabama in the mid-19th century and started a general store that traded with slave-holding plantation owners (a fact that is discreetly underlined in the play’s newly revised version) and evolved into a New York-based cotton brokerage. In due course, the firm grew into a financial empire, surviving two world wars and the depression and thriving—or, latterly, seeming to thrive—until it imploded in 2008, nearly forty years after the last member of the Lehman family departed….
The impression “The Lehman Trilogy” gives is of a novel being read out loud by three actors, much of which is written in the third person and the present tense (“Emanuel sits up in his armchair all night”). To be sure, Sam Mendes, the director, working in close collaboration with his inspired design team, has gone a long way toward giving “The Lehman Trilogy” a simulacrum of dramatic momentum, but it is not the kind to be found in a conventionally dialogue-driven play….
If I sound a bit lukewarm about the results, it is because I did not immediately warm to “The Lehman Trilogy.” But Sam Mendes’ staging is gloriously imaginative, and Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester, the three English character actors who comprise his cast, are prodigiously gifted changelings who all play men, women and children at various points in the show. Without exception, they do so with a light and witty touch that draws the sting from the words they speak, which are too often portentous and never truly poetic…
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The trailer for The Lehman Trilogy: