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“Lehman Trilogy” from TimeLine Theater

In the “Lehman Trilogy,” three main truths emerge from the Broadway Playhouse stage. First, whether you’re a celebrity, a presidential candidate, or a businessman, hubris has long been the biggest human trap. The second is that American capitalism has always relied on arrogance and psychological manipulation. Third, adult children are just as likely to break their parents’ ways as they are to follow them.

There are many family businesses that Junior blew up. Including this.

As anyone with an MBA knows, the only factor more dangerous to a business than the offspring of Oedipus is the passage of time. And that, in the end, is the biggest takeaway from this London and Broadway hit about the history of Lehman Brothers, assorted retail store owners, wholesale traders, savvy brokers, brokers, bankers, investors, industrialists and, finally, speculators on the wrong side. everything.

The play, which opened on Broadway in March 2020 and, given its themes, went bankrupt within a few weeks, only to return triumphantly after the pandemic pause, winning five Tony Awards.

Then I thought it was one of those movies made by director Sam Mendes. the best thing i’ve ever seen And he was hardly alone. This three-act script was less a literary masterpiece than a half-narrative, half-dramatized scheme of exciting theatrical storytelling, an epic tale for three actors playing a wide range of characters in succession over the years.

The show, written by Italian writer Stefano Massini and adapted for the stage by British writer-director Ben Power, attracted great attention. success of power The original cast includes three men who play everyone from the original Lehmans, fresh off the ship from Germany, to wives, children, customers and interlopers.

The version of “The Lehman Trilogy” currently playing at the Broadway Playhouse is not a tour of that production, although that may appear to be the case since it is during Broadway subscription season in Chicago. Rather, it is the first local production of this licensable play, co-directed by Nick Bowling and Vanessa Stalling, and staged by TimeLine Theatre, the mid-sized company that has long presented historical works.

Three Chicago actors star. It stars Mitchell J. Fain, Henry Lehman and others. It stars Anish Jethmalani, Emanuel Lehman and others. And Joey Slotnick plays Mayer Lehman and his descendants, compatriots and customers. et al.

How do the shows compare? I don’t think it’s a fair question, given the extraordinary nature of the international original, which featured Mendes at the peak of his formidable powers. And it only makes sense if you’ve seen it in New York. Here in Chicago, TimeLine offers a new staging that, if a bit shaky, is powerful, honestly performed, and quite gripping at its best moments. And it leans much more into the comedy of the piece; There was also some more talk about slavery, the disgusting institution that fueled the events.

I found the large physical production designed by Collette Pollard to be extremely creative. Decades-old ruins lie in plain sight, like a giant statue of Lehman-dom. But it’s probably more than this show really needs; it lacked the simpler original’s ability to switch in an instant and throw events into sudden, sharp relief. Sometimes it seemed like it would take a long time for the actors to struggle to get to the next scene in the dark, and you don’t want such long pauses in a drama.

The “Lehman Trilogy” is a huge undertaking for a company of this size, and I suspect things will get better as we progress over the relatively long term (by Chicago standards). So I’m betting there will be performances that need more flavor, sharper details, and higher stakes. These are already rich performances and on the way.

Jethmalani specifically acts as a Lehman who is forced to hand over the reigns to someone else, for better or worse, as the world keeps turning. Fain and Slotnick also dig deep as they set fire to this tale of progress and innovation, disaster and collapse.

It’s all about one company, but it’s really all about America itself.

Theater Cycle

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Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

cjones5@chicagotribune.com

Review: “Lehman Trilogy” (3.5 stars)

When: Until November 26

Where: Broadway Theatre, 175 E. Chestnut St.

Working time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Tickets: $41.50 at 800-775-2000 and www.broadwayinchicago.com

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