Review: The Inheritance
While The Inheritance may be a story about gay men living in the present, it is clearly influenced by the past. The primary influence is Howards End author E.M. Forster who appears as a guide to help these men finish telling their story. Borrowing from Forster, while reworking the characters to fit his needs, playwright Matthew Lopez creates an inexplicable link between the Victorian-era world of Howards End, and the one that a new generation of gay men are trying to navigate following the AIDS crisis with heartbreaking and moving effects.
With a total run time that nears seven hours spread across two parts, it would be wise to give yourself two days to take in Lopez's work. The first day to see both parts, and the second day to recover. And that is meant in the most positive way possible. The play first part, largely guided by the character of Forster (Paul Hilton) as the young men learn how to tell their own stories is hauntingly beautiful. Forster, known as Morgan through the play, urges the men to look deep into their hearts and write what they feel. Thus emerges the story of Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap) and Eric Glass (Kyle Soller).
They are the prime examples of opposites attract, as Toby is an egotistical dramatist and Eric is a kind humane lawyer. Their marriage is impending, but the engagement is threatened as Toby becomes more and more attracted to Adam (Samuel H. Levine), the star of his latest work. Eric, despite his liberal values, is subsequently drawn to the Republican real estate developer Henry (John Benjamin Hickey) who has recently lost his partner, Walter (also played by Paul Hilton), who has a connection to Eric.
The inheritance that title of the play refers to is a house upstate that Walter wanted Eric to have. This house, and Walter, are the play's link to the AIDS epidemic as it became a place Walter would open as a refuge to those dying from the disease, as we later learn. When Eric finally gets to see the house by the end of Part One, the stage is flooded with the young men who were victims of the epidemic that took so many lives. And Part Two hits the audience with an equally emotional punch to the gut, introducing us to Margaret (Lois Smith), who lost her son to AIDS before accepting who he was and now holds a special place in her heart for the sanctuary Walter created
While this play may primarily feel like Eric and Toby's story, it is truly the story of everyone impacted by the AIDS epidemic whether that be when the number of people dying was at its highest or those who have inherited the world from them and must try make sense of it. Lopez's work does a beautiful job of emphasizing that, bringing in the stories of so many young men. It is a tribute to the generation before them as well as a vehicle to share modern stories from adoption to marriage and everything in between. Lopez has created a breathtaking masterpiece that is filled to the brim with incredible storytelling. It's no wonder that the set feels simply like a table with sunken seating. All that's needed to fill the space are the incredible performances from the entire cast with the words of Lopez. The time will surely fly by.