Front Row Reviewers

A Towering Triumph of Storytelling, Pioneer Theatre Company’s Production of The Lehman Trilogy Transcends Theatre

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

As the inaugural production of the Meldrum Theatre at the Einar Nielsen Fieldhouse, The Lehman Trilogy is a fantastic and poignant parable of American capitalism and legacy. Beginning with the arrival of Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer Lehman to the United States in the 1840s and ending with the collapse of their global financial empire in 2008, The Lehman Trilogy is an epic story. And in the Meldrum Theatre, the epic is made intimate. Pioneer Theatre Company’s staging of this incredible play is miraculous. With a three-hour run time and two intermissions, it would be easy to say that sitting that long has to be an ordeal, but you never feel the length due to the level of engagement and vivacity of the writing and performances. The Lehman Trilogy is a paragon of storytelling and theatre.

The original Italian text of The Lehman Trilogy is by Stefano Massini (Playwright), and here is adapted by Ben Power (Adaptor) in a script that is intelligent, witty, and compelling. Ostensibly a biographical play, there is much more than mere history. Massini and Power channel a deep understanding of human beings, a love of language, and the Lehmans’ vehicle to create a theatrical masterpiece that transcends the boundaries of storytelling. Their text is something special.

William Connell, Jeff Talbot, and Seth Andrew Bridges. Photography courtesy of BW Productions.

Le Âme (the soul) is an apt way of looking at Karen Azenberg’s (Director) vision for this monster of a production. Nestled within the set design, the words ‘Le Âme’ appear in connection with the Lehman Brothers brand. Beyond banking and financing, this play constantly looks at what is at the heart of these men and women. Each character pushes for excellence (however they define that) but is obsessed with legacy: what we leave behind and what comes next for future generations. Azenberg weaves a tight web of relationships, always seeking to create clarity for the audience (the actors do play 50 different characters). Her blocking is clean, the use of the stage is fantastic, and the humanity she creates is alluring. Azenberg’s directing is the soul, and the memories of these people become hauntingly familiar.

Jeff Talbot, Seth Andrew Bridges, and William Connell. Photography courtesy of BW Productions.

The actors’ ability to flow in and out of narration and character is breathtaking. Jeff Talbot (Henry Lehman), William Connell (Emanuel Lehman), and Seth Andrew Bridges (Mayer Lehman) portray a menagerie of characters between them while simultaneously narrating the play. Each brings their individual prowess to their performance, but they execute their various roles with the skillfulness and artistry of a virtuoso orchestra, seamlessly transitioning between characters with depth. They choose to work in tandem, feeding off one another, demonstrating a level of trust and heightened awareness often not seen in theatre. Their characters are sometimes simple – a gesture, an accent, a manner of speaking, walking, or moving – yet they contain the essence of well-rounded, complete persons in that simplicity. Talbot can be fierce in one moment and effectively effeminate without parody or silliness. Connell plays child petulance with realism, then turns to intellectual in an instant. Bridges can be warm and kind, but the next second, he embodies the character of avarice. Quickly moving from one to another, in their characterizations and narration is a dizzying task, but the trio makes the performance look effortless. Their portrayal of the Lehman brothers and the myriad individuals they encounter along their journey is extraordinary, drawing the audience into their world with every word and gesture.

Seth Andrew Bridges, William Connell, and Jeff Talbot. Photography courtesy of BW Productions.

With layers of nuance, Yoon Bae (Scenic and Costume Designer) creates a divine world. Every item on set accentuates the atmosphere (the books pulled out on the bookshelf are particularly outstanding). Bae creates tension with seemingly unambiguous items. The office chairs from decades layered behind the main set are a great example. She embraces the multigenerational story and adds another texture of complexity. With dexterity, Bae approaches the costume design. Intricacies of design give us time period and age. Props do the heavy lifting, allowing the story and the actors to shine more. 

Jeff Talbot, Seth Andrew Bridges, and William Connell. Photography courtesy of BW Productions.

Michael Gilliam (Lighting Designer) is able to transform scenes through lighting, emphasize moments, and enhance emotions throughout the show. Gilliam’s lighting, on the surface, appears uncomplicated. In most elegant art, however, there is an elaborate design going on behind what appears basic. Such is Gilliam’s approach. There are so many cues throughout the play’s run, each calculated to create observable scenes without bringing attention to itself. Gilliam’s work is moving, unpretentious, and perfect.

The Lehman Trilogy is a moving epic of Western capitalism seen through the eyes of immigrants who created a financial empire. Beyond that, it is a cautionary tale about relatable people over a span of almost 200 years. Despite being set in the past, the themes explored – greed, ambition, moral ambiguity – resonate deeply in today’s world. As the characters grapple with questions of ethics and responsibility, audiences are forced to confront their own beliefs and values, making for an experience that is both thought-provoking and profoundly moving. You will find yourself laughing, agreeing (and disagreeing), sharing in collective humanity, and then marveling at the fantasia of the third act. This story lives and breathes. It resonates within the fabric of a shared society. The Lehman Trilogy is a production that demands to be seen.

Runtime: Approximately 3 hours 10 minutes, including two 10-minute intermissions

Pioneer Theatre Company presents The Lehman Trilogy: by Stefano Massini, Adapted by Ben Power
Inaugural production in the Meldrum Theatre at the Einar Nielsen Fieldhouse
375 1400 East, Salt Lake City UT 84112
March 29 – April 13, 2024
Monday—Thursday, 7:00 PM
Friday & Saturday, 7:30 PM
Saturday, 2:00 PM
Tickets: $42-$53 ($5 more per ticket if purchased at the door)
Students K – 12 or ages 5-18 are half-price Monday – Thursday
Box Office: 801-581-6961
Open 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday – Friday
Pioneer Theatre Company Website
Pioneer Theatre Company Facebook
Pioneer Theatre Company Instagram

Post-show talkback with members of PTC’s artistic staff immediately following the 2 PM performance on Saturday, April 6th.
ASL-interpreted performance: Saturday, April 13th @ 2 PM

Content Advisory:
LANGUAGE: Mild adult language
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES?: The production contains moments and themes that some people may find distressing. This includes the non-graphic depiction of a suicide and mentions of suicide. There is also infrequent mention of death, war and slavery. If The Lehman Trilogy were to be made into a film, it would likely be PG.

Now celebrating its 62nd season, the award-winning PTC is Utah’s premiere professional theatre
company and leading arts organization of the West. Led by Artistic Director Karen Azenberg and Interim Managing Director Diane L. Parisi, PTC presents world-class productions that celebrate diversity in culture and society and serve as the connecting bridge between art and scholarship as an affiliate of the University of Utah. For more information, visit

As announced previously, The Lehman Trilogy has the distinction of being the inaugural production in the new Meldrum Theatre at Einar Nielsen Fieldhouse. The brand-new space is built inside the historic field house structure, with a state-of-the-art theatre space containing approximately 380-seats. PTC’s artistic vision for the new theatre is to provide its audiences with more intimate experiences for smaller plays.

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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