(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/14; Photo: From left, Adam Godley, Adrian Lester and Simon Russell Beale in “The Lehman Trilogy,” at the Nederlander Theater.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.)
The play, tracing the rise and fall of the fabled financiers, finally opens on Broadway after
Much of what happens in “The Lehman Trilogy” is invisible to the eye, which is not the way prestige drama usually works onstage.
Directed by Sam Mendes, this British import, which reaches across 164 years of American history to trace the family saga behind the fallen financial powerhouse Lehman Brothers, was a scalding-hot ticket during a brief prepandemic run at the Park Avenue Armory. Yet it offers almost nothing in the way of spectacle, and only the slightest of costume changes: a top hat here, a pair of glasses there.
In the captivating production that opened on Thursday night at the Nederlander Theater, it relies largely on an unspoken agreement between actors and audience — to imagine together, and let fancy crowd out fact.
Sort of the way that heedless investors looked right past all warning signs in the faith-based run-up to the stock market crash of 2008. Illusion is illusion, after all, and financial markets, like the theater, require a certain suspension of disbelief — though when the fantasy bursts in theater, the fallout is less ruinous. When investors halted their collective game of make-believe 13 years ago, mammoth financial firms like Lehman Brothers met their swift demise, and the world’s markets suffered the aftershocks.
“The Lehman Trilogy,” though, is not actually a number-crunching play; reports that Jeff Bezos took in a recent performance should not cause you to infer otherwise.
Written by Stefano Massini and adapted by Ben Power, it is a vividly human tale, nimbly performed by three of the finest actors around: Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester, who, in making his Broadway debut, has replaced the original cast’s Ben Miles. (I did not catch Beale, Godley and Miles at the Armory; it was too scarce a ticket, and too pricey.)