A new play about the Lehman Brothers financial firm, from its founding in Alabama by Jewish immigrants in 1855 to its extinction in 2008 that helped set off the Great Financial Crash, has opened in New York to tap into the upscale market pioneered by Hamilton. It is directed by Sam Mendes, director of American Beauty with Kevin Spacey, and stars three British actors, including Simon Russell Beale who played Beria in The Death of Stalin, as the original three Lehman brothers and many others. Ben Brantley raves in the New York Times:
The script by the Italian playwright Stefano Massini, exquisitely adapted into English by Ben Power, follows the blossoming of a small Alabama clothing store in the 1840s, founded by three immigrant Jewish brothers from Bavaria, into an international powerhouse of the stock exchange, before its world-rattling collapse in 2008. …
This is Henry Lehman, a young man from Bavaria, who has just set foot on American soil for the first time. As brought to life by Mr. Beale, one of the finest classical actors alive, Henry is radiant with astonishment, trepidation and a sense of infinite possibilities. His name has already been changed (from Heyum) by a New York customs official; the journey of endlessly becoming, reflecting that of millions of arrivals to the United States then and now, has begun.
It’s a moment that will feel achingly familiar to anyone who ever arrived in New York from somewhere else to be someone else. It registers as so deeply personal that it may take you a moment to realize that Mr. Beale, as Henry, is speaking in the third person, not the first.
And how he and his fellow actors speak has the resonance of a work by Homer or Virgil, in which specific acts and thoughts are always juxtaposed against a sense of eternity — of time past, present and to come. Here is how Henry concludes the beginning of that opening scene:
“He took a deep breath, picked up his suitcase and walking quickly, despite not knowing where to go, like so many others he stepped into the magical music box called America.” And by then, you have a sensory grasp of just what that world is.
The play is generally pro capitalism and pro Lehman Brothers.
Rich guys in the audience all loved it.
Here’s Jonathan Leaf’s review in The New Criterion.
Tickets are all sold out but they were in the $500 range.