Family! Ambition! The collapse of an American investment banking company that contributed to the global financial crisis of 2007-09! “The Lehman Trilogy” has it all — and it stars Oak Park actor Anish Jethmalani.
“It’s really quite a ride,” Jethmalani said of the play at the Broadway Playhouse inside the Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago.
Jethmalani plays Emanuel Lehman, one of three founding brothers of the Lehman Brothers Inc. financial services firm. Audiences can catch him in the three-man play from Sept. 19 to Oct. 29. Tickets are on sale now and Jethmalani said it’s very much worth seeing.
“There’s a lot happening, and it’s done in a way that’s really theatrical and poetic,” he said.
The play charts the rise and fall of the company, which at one time was the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States, across two centuries. Beginning with the brothers’ mid-19th-century immigration to America, the play ends right at the cusp of the bank’s ultimate and infamous collapse in 2008, when it filed for bankruptcy.
Written by Stefano Massini and adapted by Ben Power, “The Lehman Trilogy” opened to critical acclaim in 2018 in London’s West End theater district, where it earned five Laurence Olivier Award nominations. The play became an even bigger success during its Broadway run, raking in eight 2022 Tony nominations and winning five, including Best Play.
In this production, Jethmalani stars alongside Mitchell Fain and Joey Slotnick, who play Henry Lehman and Mayer Lehman, respectively, the eldest and youngest of the Lehman brothers. In the same order as their birth, the Lehman brothers left Bavaria, one by one, in pursuit of the American Dream. Emanuel Lehman left Europe in 1847, three years after Henry Lehman and three years before Mayer Lehman.
The trio of actors slip into more shoes than just those of the bank’s founding brothers. The play covers three generations of the Lehman family over three acts, so the three men also play the brothers’ sons, grandsons, and even wives and girlfriends.
Jethmalani has the particular responsibility of playing Emanuel Lehman and his fraternal nephew, Herbert Lehman, the 45th governor of New York and former U.S. senator. He describes Herbert as “a very progressive, outspoken leader.”
“He was ahead of his time in terms of being able to speak out about issues that were affecting the common person,” Jethmalani said.
Progressive values are part of what drew him and his family to Oak Park, but he also values the community’s appreciation for the fine arts. Several actors call Oak Park home, he said, and the village’s local theater scene, particularly Oak Park Festival Theatre, was already on his radar before he and his wife moved here in 2017.
“It’s got quite a reputation for good theater,” he said.