The Lehman Trilogy

New York Stock Exchange

Thursday’s avocado-knife fight was only the beginning of the trauma that I would have to endure that day. Thursday night featured dinner and a show. The show was The Lehman Trilogy, the opening play for this year’s season at the Rep. The Lehman Trilogy ran three and a half hours, plus two fifteen-minute intermissions, for a total running time of four hours. By the end of it, both my pinky and my butt were sore. This three-act play was portrayed by just three actors, who portrayed the original three Lehman brothers and all of their subsequent descendants, plus everyone else. It begins in the 1840s with the arrival from Germany to America of the Jewish Lehman brothers. They promptly setup shop in Alabama and after a few iterations begin making money as cotton traders, or basically middlemen. Except for the oldest brother dying from Yellow Fever—freeing that actor to play other roles—everything is going fine until the Civil War. Slavery and the Lehman brothers’ involvement with it is pretty much glossed over. End act one.

After the Civil War the two remaining Lehmen brothers transition from cotton to banking and move to New York. Banking is now their business and business is very good and the family flourishes. At least until 1929 and the stock market crash. By that time, we have moved on to the second generation of Lehman brothers and the third act. The play sort of ends in the sixties, with the retirement of the last Lehman family member. In sort of an epilogue non-family members take over management of the company and eventually run it into bankruptcy.

The Lehman Trilogy was written during the pandemic, when we all had too much time on our hands. The play’s author apparently was in quarantine and had no access to an editor. When we went to see this behemoth, the house was very small. Almost the same size as the houses for the few shows that were performed during the pandemic, where limited and spaced-out seating was dictated to help slow the spread of disease. No such considerations were present for this performance. Having received the twin blows of the pandemic and the retirement of its long-time artistic director Steven Wolf, I am concerned that The Rep, like Lehman might eventually fail and then disappear. 

King Cotton

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