‘The Inheritance’ Theater Review: Epic Tale Of Gay Male Experience Is Pure Brilliance
The Inheritance, which opened last night at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theater, is an epic, sprawling exploration of the gay male identity in 21st Century New York CIty. The 2-part, 6-hour drama by young playwright Matthew Lopez is also grand in its aspirations that it draws comparisons with the granddad of modern epic theater, Angels In America. The play opens innocently enough with a young gay couple Eric (Kyle Soller) and Toby (Andrew Burnap) reliving an embarrassing scene from a Hamptons party – one would be forgiven for thinking this will be a updated comedy of manners. Oh, no! As their relationship unfolds and unwinds, the audience meets their friends striving to make it in New York City as they grasp to find some history to hold onto in their journey. They summon the great English writer E.M. Forster, author of Howards End, which bade its characters to “only connect” in a fractured world, to guide them on their journey.
Directed with aplomb by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), each of the characters is both a narrator and a player in the drama. Lopez moves from the everyday to the eternal effortlessly. The plot is involved: Eric and Toby befriend twinky actor Adam (Samuel Levine), and Toby falls for him and casts him in his semi-autobiographical play. When Toby and Eric go to Chicago to open the play, Eric gets chummy with older neighbor Walter (Paul Hilton). After Walter unexpectedly dies, Eric begins to date Walter’s husband, Henry (John Benjamin Hickey). Henry takes Eric to see the old house Walter loved upstate. We learn that in the 80s Walter had used the house as a home for hundreds of gay men dying of AIDS. When Eric enters the house, we see it is inhabited by the ghosts of these men, and in that moment, Eric finally finds his calling and community.
The bravura climax to Part One will touch even the most stoic in the audience. Lopez reveals himself to be a master playwright who can achieve that rarest of things – to weave together high and low, the eternal and ordinary. As Foster, pled in Howards End, “only connect” to one another.