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Lehman Trilogy: STC slogs again

I’m dreadfully behind on reviews this spring, and will probably skip most of them. But The Lehman Trilogy is one that left a mark … for better and for worse.

This production is both far too long and not long enough. The first act, running over an hour itself, is wonderful. The Lehman brothers are fully fleshed out characters, and their lives are full of triumph and challenges and growth and mistakes and savvy. The three actors transition between characters beautifully with minor changes in speech and affectations, and the whole is vibrant and alive. Were the play to end with the first act I’d call it a triumph of creative design and performance.

But there are two more 45-minute (or so) acts. And they drag relentlessly and painfully. As the story moves from the family founders the story becomes less and less human and more and more mechanical. There is a focus on business that I’m sure is sensible for the history, but drones for a theatrical audience. The final third is especially painful, with three men shouting about stocks and a particularly exhausting “dance number” that tests the fortitude of actor and audience alike.

The second and third acts try to pack as much information as possible, and sacrifice character to do so. The point may be to emphasize the shift from human to profit, as perhaps the company can be charged, but repeating the failures of the subjects doesn’t lead to theatrical success.

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