By: Nov. 21, 2023

Three Bone Theatre presented The Lehman Trilogy, at the Arts Factory in West Charlotte. Written by Italian playwright Stefano Massini, The Lehman Trilogy is a three-act play (three plus hours) that covers the lives of three immigrant German-born Jewish brothers—Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer Lehman, who arrived in the United States in the early 1800s, prior to the Civil War. In 2022, it received eight Tony award nominations, winning five that included Best Play, and Best Direction In A Play for Director Sam Mendes.

The first act of the trilogy began when Henry opened a small shop selling cotton garments in Montgomery, Alabama.  He was soon joined by his two brothers.  The brothers then purchased and operated “Cotton” plantations. Immediately, their success began to grow to higher dimensions.

Prior to tonight, I had no knowledge of the actual Lehman Brothers, the characters that the trilogy is based on. I was unaware of their impact in the capitalist marketplace and their integral part in the stock market crash.  Tonight, I acquired a great deal of knowledge in a three-hour span of time.

First and foremost, I MUST give major kudos to the trilogy of actors who flawlessly portrayed an ensemble of characters each…Kevin Shimko, Scott Tynes-Miller, and Becca Worthington.  Their articulation and in-depth presentation of this family’s history is the reason why this production knocked this homerun ball out of the park.  I’m still in awe of how they did it!  How did they memorize all those various characters and lines-upon-lines of dialogues/monologues? How did they transform on-the-spot into a myriad of characters to include a three-year old boy, (Becca) and overbearing flirtatious woman suitor (Kevin).  All I can say is…Incredible!  Amazing! Superb! I was blown away!  Certainly…Mesmerized! 

I previously met and partnered with Kevin Shimko for the semifinals of the BIPOC Playwrights Festival, at the Comedy Actors Theatre Of Charlotte (CATch), but I had NO IDEA that he was such a great acting SENSATION.  "I tip one of my closet full of hats to you, Kevin!”   I have never formally met Scott Tynes-Miller or Becca Worthington but believe me, I will make a point of doing so in the near future.  All three exemplified a trilogy in their dynamics, stage presence, and embodiment of every character that almost made me forget how extremely long this production was.  Their delivery captivated and thoroughly entertained me. I must give them a trilogy of Bravos!  BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!

The symbolisms I observed in The Lehman Trilogy, and my “takeaways” were remarkable.   They were showcased through the ticking of “the clock on the wall”, the changing of the “signs of the times” and how the COTTON sign landed in the “middle of the road” and eventually transformed into a “BANK” sign.  Of course, the common denominator that remained above each sign was the name Lehman Brothers.  The men in the family evolved from cotton plantations to investing in trains, and finally the financial leap and fall into investment banking which identified them as an integral contributor to the stock market crash.  The “three-card-Monty” symbolism and Philip Lehman’s (Kevin Shimko) affirmation to always stay focus in order to pick the right card was major to me, especially when he said “the solution is always present” – which is a philosophy I whole-heartedly embrace.  Yes, I agree that the solution is always present; you just have to discover and apply it.  The simile of Simon, the tight-rope walker, skillfully “walking the tight rope” of life was another mind-teaser.  The message, undergirded with the potential risk/danger of “falling off” the rope, eventually became the Lehman family's reality. That stock market crash was THE FALL and the domino effect it had on the lives and deaths of those involved was heart-wrenching.   That scene that revealed how many stock brokers killed themselves and the repetition narration by, Becca, “A Bullet, A Trigger, A Shot”, sent chills down my spine.

The generational quest for more power by the Lehman offsprings and their fearless risk-taking tactics was fascinating to me as well.  Especially that last bunch…Philip Lehman, his son, Robert, and their cousin, Herbert, the politician.   It reminded me of the early video game “Pac Man”…each time they chomped down on that pill it boosted their power to a whole new level.  In similar fashion, that generation of Lehman(s) became enthralled with ambitious and quite frankly, greed.  Yet, like Simon,  the tight-rope walker, the underlying risk-factor could render them powerless in one tick of the clock.  And it did!  All of that power and wealth led them to a road of destruction that tarnished the probable intent and legacy that those original three German-born immigrant brothers, Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer sacrificed to carve out an enduring legacy for their family.  I’m sure they were proverbially “turning over in their graves” as the stacked boxes of their lives tumbled and fell with the subprime mortgage schemes and the filing of bankruptcy, on September 15, 2008.

I was incredibly enlightened by the storyline of The Lehman Trilogy; the time went by faster than I anticipated, and the intermissions were masterfully orchestrated.  Yet, I must admit that my theater brain was in overload mode and my body was a bit sluggish when I exited the theater.   I had to drink a cup of chamomile tea before retiring to bed…to bring my aura back to the center of calmness.  The rollercoaster ride of financial rise and fall, over-ambitious egos, calculated romances and divorces, kept me at a plateau of highs and lows…I think I crashed like the stock market at the end.  All-in-all, The Lehman Trilogy was an expedition that was well-produced by Three Bone Theatre, well-directed by David Winitsky, and well-cast with three incredible actors, Kevin Shimko, Scott Tynes-Miller, and Becca Worthington…Three Bone, you should count it as a huge win for your historical record books.

Kevin Shimko (Phillip Lehman)  Holding Up The Boxes 
Photo Courtesy:  Three Bone Theatre

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