While in the audience at The Lehman Trilogy I learned, among a zillion other things, that I am a middle man for providing experiences. I have no hand in the creation of the experiences. I am but a fellow experience seeker and I take groups with me to share in the experience. I LOVE IT! So I will continue to embrace this role of cultural middle man for a good long time. And an experience is exactly what was proffered when almost 70 of us met at the Park Avenue Armory to view the staggeringly stark, but supremely powerful The Lehman Trilogy.
I am practically an expert at going to performing arts productions. As such, I don’t think much about the part where I make my way to my seat after my ticket has been scanned. This was upended upon arrival to the Armory. Audience members (some sprier than others) had to literally climb steep steps to get to their glorified seats in the bleachers with a pitch that may have induced vertigo in a more than a few people. At our seats… big, bold programs further announced that this night, this night was different. Big space and a big program – ideal to match my BIG expectations for this evening. Unwieldy program perched awkwardly on my lap – I shifted my gaze down to the massive area where the stage is supposed to be and spied a black hole. Marvelous!
The Park Avenue Armory has this to say of its space and purpose: “Part American palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory is dedicated to supporting unconventional works in the visual and performing arts that need non-traditional spaces for their full realization, enabling artist to create, students to explore, and audiences to consume epic and adventurous presentations that cannot be mounted elsewhere in New York City.” Thank you Armory for being this important cultural contribution in this cultural wonderland. And thank you for finally bringing The Lehman Trilogy, a story born on American soil, to American soil even if just for a few precious nanoseconds.
For those not schooled in the fascinating in its own right back story of The Lehman Trilogy, a play about three German Jews who made their way to America to make their way in America read on. It was written by Italian playwright Stefano Massini and originally conceived as a radio play or what we could also call a fancy book on tape read live with multiple talented voices playing various parts vs. one singular reader. This partially explains why the play evolved into a three-part three-man show, each wildly talented actor shouldering the voices and roles of multiple characters to unfold the playwright’s story.
The Lehman Trilogy‘s first staged production took place in Paris and lasted 5 hours. Five hours! It went onto to be staged in 11 languages and was performed in Italy, Germany and more, culminating in London’s West End, which is the closest iteration to what we saw (15 minutes was trimmed from the London production for us Americans). After a very short run of just four weeks here in NYC (it closes April 20th) it is going back to London for an eight-week run beginning on May 11th. Hope!! for those who want to see it and can’t score a ticket for the remaining 10 days – hop across the pond and go experience it in London.
For the price of a practically unattainable ticket, you will be the beneficiary of much learning on history, business, family dynamics, power, survival, transformation, dealing with adversity, coping and giving up entirely. In three hours and 15 minutes (with two 15 minute intermissions that are managed with the efficiency of a German train) you will travel from the year 1835 and gallop through the decades all the way until the fall of the founder’s corporation in 2008. As you sit riveted on the edge of your seat you will learn many things you didn’t know (like did you know that the Lehman brothers first opened up shop in Alabama?) and understand more deeply things you thought you knew (the scenes during the stock market crash of 1929 were particularly powerful and painful).
One day I would love to get my hands on what must be a tomb of a script for this play. The amount of words these actors have to convey to the audience over the course of the evening is mind-blowing. With nothing but a spinning glass box, some file boxes, a vase of flowers, and the literal coats on their backs, these three actors shift and morph and climb and contort and work together so closely I can’t imagine what it must be like when a brave understudy assumes any one of the three roles. This show is a master class in acting, stage choreography, and teamwork at it’s highest pinnacle.
I am guessing you’ve derived by now that I think you should grab your group and go. I am not going to say that. Ditch the group and do what you can to secure a ticket for yourself to experience this, as the program states, “parable for the shifting definition of success in America.” There are some single tickets available here and there at the Armory’s online box office and a limited number of rush tickets are released daily at noon at the actual box office. OR you might try popping over around show time to avail yourself of the scalper’s inventory. One guy on the night we were there had three tickets in his hand that he clearly wanted to unload. Five minutes before show time you might be able to secure a good price.
If you do go, I highly recommend you get there early to spend some time with the oversize program and to admire the unique and truly awesome space of the Armory. I also encourage you to go to the After Hours lounge post-show. Look around the room as you sip your cocktail to admire the gracious space and soaring ceilings. If you are lucky the three actors who just conquered these mammoth roles will miraculously turn up in their comfortable street clothes looking like they are just out for a casual drink on a random Wednesday night. If you are braver than me perhaps you might say hello and thank them for sharing their extraordinary gifts with us.
Field trip Alert: The husband discovered this little tidbit at our theater outing. We learn in the play that Bobbie Lehman, son of Philip and Carrie Lehman, was an early and life long lover of art (and horses and later in life dancing – BIG fan of dancing). He gallivanted around the world collecting art amassing a collection of over 2,600 pieces. Which makes one wonder… how do you as a singular person house over 2,600 pieces of art? A stratospheric high-class problem to have. In his will, he stipulated that his carefully collected works be donated to a museum with two stipulations: 1. the works all stay together and 2. must be shown in an environment that is reminiscent of a home (a very fancy home I am guessing). The lucky recipient of this bequeathal was our very own Metropolitan Museum of Art (Bobbie was on the board for years), who went on to build a special wing to house Bobbie’s art. It is called The Robert Lehman Collection. A great swath of what is on display is from the period of the Italian Renaissance. I am guessing my son, just back from his detailed Italian Study Tour to Rome and Florence, will have many observations to share regarding the works that are on display. At some point this weekend, that is where we will be.