Play turns big bank into big drama


Thirteen years after a bunch of grungy Bohemians whined about paying “rent! rent! rent!” onstage on the Nederlander Theatre, a brand new present there may be sermonizing concerning the evils of “bank! bank! bank!” 

Funny. Broadway, usually a $2 billion money machine the place a glass of pinot grigio prices ⅓ of your ticket value, certain loves its anti-capitalist screeds.

And it definitely will like “The Lehman Trilogy,” a slick British import concerning the spectacular rise and fall of the Lehman brothers that opened Thursday evening. Self-important economics lectures apart, the drama is an thrilling and invigorating piece of theater, even when it’s a bit excessive on itself.  

Theater review

Running time: 3 hours quarter-hour, two intermissions. Nederlander Theatre, 208 W. forty first St.; 212-921-8000.

“Lehman” has walked a protracted highway to Broadway — first to London and off-Broadway — and this manufacturing is one of the best it’s been. I discovered Ben Power’s play fairly uninteresting on the UK’s National Theatre in 2018, and was bored out of my thoughts for many of its flight-to-the-Bahamas runtime. 

But again then it was carried out in a cavernous area that swallowed it entire. Deadly. Broadway’s relative intimacy provides the drama a a lot wanted jolt of life and contains the viewers extra. Although, with two 15-minute intermissions, it’s nonetheless too lengthy, you’re swept away by director Sam Mendes’ grand storytelling.

Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester — a killer trio — play a stack of Lehmans over three acts because the company morphs from a tiny Alabama store in 1847 to the highly effective New York funding bank that collapsed in 2008. 

The first Lehmans — Henry (Beale), Emanuel (Lester) and Mayer (Godley) — narrate their penniless nineteenth century journey from Germany to America and provides themselves nicknames: Henry is the top, Emanuel is the arm and Mayer is the potato. The author, Ben Power, repeats phrases and phrases time and again to jam data into your cranium. It works. I by no means need to hear the phrase “potato” ever once more.

Playing sons, wives, fathers, fellow businessmen and narrators, the three actors, with exceptional readability, clarify how ambition, smarts and household pleasure birthed a behemoth, prefer it or not.

The tiny retailer turns into a large cotton reseller, and in Act 2 it turns into a bank. During the third half, Philip Lehman (Beale) sinisterly realizes his company’s most profitable product is money itself — or extra particularly, making common individuals assume they’ve it after they don’t.

All these lightbulb moments are overblown, and you may sense the author desirous to tack on an evil “Muwhahahaha!” on the finish of every. Yet what Power has achieved in cramming a lot dense historical past into one gratifying bundle is terribly spectacular. 

So is the work of Mendes, who has pulled off a dynamite one-two punch with “The Lehman Trilogy” and the sensational movie “1917.” After a lull, he’s again big-time. Mendes has staged the play on a cool, rotating, plexiglass office, and the actors stack bins, scribble on the partitions and dance on desks to magic up new areas. There are an entire lot of bells and whistles, however after 18 months of nothing, you don’t thoughts the noise.

The better of the three males is Godley whereas he performs Bobby Lehman, the business’ chief for greater than 40 years. In one sequence, with no assist from tech or prosthetics, he bodily modifications from a charismatic govt into a skeletal corpse utilizing solely motion. It’s gross. It’s humorous. It’s horrifying. You gotta see it.