The Lehman Trilogy

Sunday May 12, 2024 at 2 pm at the Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Avenue in Victoria | View Map | Phone

A family and a company that changed the world.

On a cold September morning in 1844, Heyam, a young man from Bavaria stands on a New York dockside dreaming of a new life in the new world. He is soon joined by Mendel and Mayer, and the Lehman brothers’ journey begins.

The growth of global capitalism exposes the fault lines of the American dream. The Lehman brothers rise from shopkeepers to bankers, from obscurity to prominence, navigating the Civil War, the Great Depression, and generations of ethical dilemmas.

It is an epic journey, an epic play, and a theatrical tour de force.


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Written by Stefano Massini
Adapted by Ben Power


“A dazzling piece of storytelling” -Time Out

“A masterwork… A must see.” -The Telegraph

“You dare not miss it” -New York Post


The Lehman Brothers and the American Dream

We view The Lehman Trilogy as an exploration of the American Dream, and ultimately a critique of American capitalism. Lehman Brothers’ demise in 2008 is seen as the climax of that progress—the dramatic end of one of Wall Street’s most venerable institutions.  It is therefore valuable to examine this journey which is so emblematic of the evolution of consumerism, capitalism, and the American way of life.

The play is the story of three generations of this family, beginning with their arrival as immigrants to America. We follow their evolution from shopkeepers in Alabama to leaders of an international financial juggernaut.

It is also excellent theatre. Come and see it!

While the script is epic in scope, it is not a history – it is a work of fiction. it does not encompass absolutely everything about the history of American Capitalism. The script of The Lehman Trilogy does not overtly condemn slavery, nor does it mention that, for a time, the brothers were Southern slave owners.  Undoubtedly, slavery – its profits and its horrors – form an integral part of American capitalism. But like the world wars, slavery, and Indigenous genocide, significant events and systems are elided in this play for dramaturgical impact and efficiency.

Casting across race, religion, and gender highlights the universal seductiveness of both the American Dream and capitalism. In addition, given that the production’s three actors are playing multiple characters—crossing genders, cultures, and ethnicities—why should the casting not do the same?

There have been various readings, and significant praise and some critiques of various past productions of The Lehman Trilogy. There are some who see the script, notably one Guardian opinion piece, as antisemitic since the Lehmans are both capitalist and Jewish. Other writers do not identify the script or the various productions as such. We appreciate that art is subjective and therefore there will be differing interpretations. There can be no definitive interpretation and no single truth. Every theatre that produces this play will have its own unique perspective, emphasizing and highlighting particular elements. We encourage you to see the Belfry production and form your own opinion.

(originally published on the Belfry website)

Find out more about this production in this series of B4Play conversations: