Duration: 1 hour and 55 minutes
The saga of the Lehman brothers is at the same time an extract of the American Dream: the country which offers everything to anyone who demonstrates talent, inventiveness and self-sacrifice, can, in the blink of an eye, turn fortunes and destinies upside down. The Lehmans risk failure more than once, with the War of Succession, two World Wars, and the 1929 crisis, always managing to pick themselves up. Until the final blow: on 15 September 2008 Lehman Brothers became the biggest bankruptcy in world bank history.
In agreement with the writer, Luca Ronconi has divided the three chapters of the trilogy (Three Brothers, Fathers and Sons, The immortal) in two parts.
The second part opens in the New York of the 1910s. The founders of the dynasty, Henry, Emanuel and Mayer, have all passed away, and their children have taken their place: Philip (Emanuel’s son) wants to speculate on the stock market, while Hubert (Mayer’s son) is unsure. Hubert becomes Governor of New York. At the age of 70 Philip Lehman “leaves”, but not definitively: he doesn’t trust his son Robert (Bobbie), an economics Yale graduate. The Lehman Brothers pass through the First World War, the 1929 crisis and the Second World War, venturing into new and ever more reckless investments (telecommunications, computers, even the atomic bomb), expanding their interests around the world. On Bobbie Lehman’s death in 1969 the company is trusted to Pete Peterson, who is then ousted by Lewis Glucksman, who leads the bank to its first crisis in the 1980s. After the recovery, the new CEO, Dick Fuld jr is unable to do anything in the face of the subprime catastrophe: on 15 September 2008, Lehman Brothers is declared bankrupt.
“This piece – underlines Luca Ronconi – immediately struck me with its variety of linguistic registers: essay, novel, dreamlike tale – they alternate, following the layout of a screenplay. Without once giving in to news-like banal contemporaneity, Massini, like Edward Bond, whose The company of men I have staged, does not intend to present audiences with a pre-packaged truth. Rather he leads them through a voyage of knowledge. Lehman Trilogy is of an “adult dramaturgy” which, freeing itself from traditional narrative and all moral examination, gives us a key with which to open a door on the episode. An episode which, whether we like it or not, has deeply influenced the lives of all of us”.
“In telling the story of the Lehman brothers”, adds Ronconi, “Massini underlines the roots of the family which lie in Orthodox Judaism, throughout the story leaving continuous references to The Bible; these roots will, at a certain point, begin to fade, to be replaced with the joining of a new religion which has its own rituals and formula, that of capitalism. From Pasticciaccio, to Karamazov, to the recent Pornografia, to name but a few, I love to stage pieces in which the actors, following the text, are lead to alternate between first and third person, in a continuous osmosis between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, between the omniscience of the narrator and the identity of the character”.
“The Lehman story – explains Stefano Massini – is not to be seen as the story of a bank, it is neither a celebration nor a critique. It will disappoint those who seek in my play a “Nuremberg of Capitalism”. One finds, rather, the story of the successes and failures of three generations, struggling with the traditions of a society in rapid transformation, infatuated first with cotton, then with coffee, then with railways, then petrol, and on and on, with cigarettes, television, cinema, automobiles, aeroplanes, supermarkets, alcohol and even the atomic bomb, without excluding that wild hunger for easy money which blew wind into the sails of the most ruthless of traders. There is an indissoluble tie between the people and the world of finance, a tie so strong that it would be hypocritical to act like meek lambs sacrificed by the High Priests of Wall Street: the parable of the three brothers, Henry, Mayer and Emanuel, and their descendants, describes the blood bond created in ancient times between the future dreamt by men and the solutions offered by the financers to make those dreams possible. A bond which exists to this very day”.
Piccolo Teatro Grassi
from 29 January to 15 March 2015
Lehman Trilogy – Part two
by Stefano Massini
directed by Luca Ronconi
sets Marco Rossi
costumes Gianluca Sbicca
sound Hubert Westkemper
makeup and hairstyles Aldo Signoretti
with (in order of appearance)
Henry Lehman Massimo De Francovich
Emanuel Lehman Fabrizio Gifuni
Mayer Lehman Massimo Popolizio
Testatonda Deggoo Martin Ilunga Chishimba
Philip Lehman Paolo Pierobon
Solomon Paprinskij Fabrizio Falco
Davidson, Pete Peterson Raffaele Esposito
Archibald, Lewis Glucksman Denis Fasolo
Herbert Lehman Roberto Zibetti
Robert Lehman Fausto Cabra
Carrie Lauer, Ruth Lamar, Ruth Owen, Lee Anz Lynn Francesca Ciocchetti
Signora Goldman Laila Maria Fernandez
a Piccolo Teatro di Milano - Teatro d’Europa production