Posts Tagged ‘the lehman trilogy’

The Lehman Trilogy
by Stefano Massini, Adapted by Ben Power
Directed by Carey Perloff
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
September 8, 2023

Firdous Bamji, Scott Wentworth, Joshua David Robinson
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is opening their new season with a much talked-about, award-winning play that’s really three plays in one, as its title suggests. The Lehman Trilogy examines the lives and history of three immigrant brothers and the company they founded, as well as the legacy they left behind, along with a critique of American corporate greed and its impact on society over the years. It also provides an ideal platform for a trio of memorable acting performances and some truly stunning production values that highlight the work of an impressive crew and creative team. 

This is a long show, running at about three-and-a-half hours, and the cast of three (Firdous Bamji, Joshua David Robinson, and Scott Wentworth) plus one onstage musician (Joe LaRocca) get quite the workout with so much stage time, character changes, and quick pacing. The story begins with the three German Jewish immigrant Lehman brothers, Henry (Wentworth), Emanuel (Robinson), and Mayer (Bamji), who start off selling fabric and suits, and then farming equipment before becoming cotton brokers and finally bankers, eventually moving their business from Montgomery, Alabama to New York City. We see the brothers’ entrepreneurial spirit develop, as well as their differing talents and roles in the company as it grows, and eventually, passes along to their descendants, including Emanuel’s assertive son Philip (Wentworth), Mayer’s inquisitive son Herbert (Robinson), and later, Philip’s worldly son Robert (Bamji). The third act moves the company into the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, as its fortunes rise and fall with the stock market, and trends of the times. It’s all told in a brisk but occasionally poetic manner, and is driven by the dynamic staging and eye-catching production values.

What especially holds interest, though, is the wonderfully versatile cast. The three actors play a variety of roles between them, with clever staging and brisk transitions adding to the energy. All three players are strong, with Bamji especially notable in highly contrasting roles as the mild-mannered Mayer and the enterprising Robert. Robinson is also excellent in balancing comedic moments with drama, and is especially adept as playing Herbert’s transition from childhood to adulthood. Wentworth also puts in a strong performance, playing the more commanding characters with particular strength. All three hold the audience’s attention for the duration, with able, melodic support from LaRocca on clarinet and a series of other instruments. 

The other stars of this production are its design and designers. Sara Brown’s set is marvelously kinetic, adapting to the various eras of the time and reflecting the changing eras as the background shifts from packing crates and boxes in the 19th century, to smoother lines and neon in more recent times. The dazzling projections by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew add a lot of energy to the visuals, as does Robert Wierzel’s dazzling lighting. There’s also excellent sound design by Mark Bennett and Charles Coes, and memorable original music by Bennett that reflects traditional and increasingly modern styles as the story progresses. 

Although the story tends to lose a little bit of steam and focus towards the end, the actors and crew keep up the energy all the way through. In terms of energy, acting, and staging, this show is a remarkable feat. Especially in terms of quality of performance, it’s a stunning work of theatre. 

Joshua David Robinson, Scott Wentworth, Firdous Bamji
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting The Lehman Trilogy until September 24, 2023

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