Who can forget when Lehman Brothers Holdings plunged into the largest bankruptcy in American history in 2008, and the ripple effect on everything from your job security and home value? Now, thanks to the gripping docudrama directed by Sam Mendes (1917, Skyfall), you’ll at least have a chance to understand not only how it all began, but how it went down.
Apparently, when the director first obtained Italian writer Stefano Massini’s novel-in-verse, it was as sprawling and brilliant as it was unwieldy, a practically impenetrable morass that had to be extensively reworked for British and American audiences. Enter Ben Power (The Hollow Crown) who managed to adapt in into a gripping three part drama in which the three actors — Simon Russell Beal (Penny Dreadful, The Hollow Crown), Adam Godley (The Great, Breaking Bad) and Howard W. Overshown play three German Jewish brothers who immigrate to America with dreams of building an empire. The actors play successive generations, slipping in and out of various roles seamlessly as we go from their humble beginnings at a fabric store in antebellum Alabama to the glittering highrise in Wall Street where everything eventually collapsed.
The play relies extensively on third-person narration, a kind of movie script reading, but manages never to feel heavy-handed or cumbersomely expository, thanks mainly to Mendes’s direction and the skillful actors who are able to convincingly mold themselves into myriad characters without skipping a beat — a masterclass in theater acting. Scenic design by Es Devlin is sparse yet effective, a gigantic, spinning glass box with changing projected backdrops. The music score by Nick Powell, irrefutably a character, is a moody piano reminiscent of Mendes’s film score collaborator, Thomas Newman.
The Lehman Trilogy is essentially an American tragedy, a true story about the manifestation of dreams, and their heartbreaking demise caused by unchecked ambition, changing times, and unsustainable financial systems. Behold Icarus on Wall Street.
–– G. Dhalla
The Lehman Trilogy runs at the Ahmanson Theater through April 10th, 2022. Tickets HERE.