A New York Theatre Guide to... The Inheritance!
The Inheritance celebrated its official opening on Broadway on Sunday, November 17, 2019.
Commissioned in Hartford, Connecticut, born in London, England… but always destined for New York City! The Broadway premiere of Matthew Lopez’s Olivier Award-winning ‘Best New Play’ The Inheritance is now officially open, having begun preview performances at the Barrymore Theatre on September 27, 2019. This equally hilarious and devastating masterpiece is told over the course of two parts under the Olivier Award-winning direction of Stephen Daldry and follows in the footsteps of Angels in America both in terms of its epic scope and its importance in theatre and society in general. Without exaggeration, this could well be the smash hit Broadway play of the season… or even the decade!
What’s it all about?
The title of The Inheritance could refer to a number of ideas. It is about the inheritance of a house in upstate New York, which offered a final resting place for countless young, gay men, who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic. It is about the inheritance of that disease passed from one person to another and from generation to generation. And it is about the inheritance of a shared history that links these generations together within the gay community.
Inspired by E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End, the play follows a group of modern-day, young, gay men who are guided by the essence of Forster himself in a creative writing class to develop a story for their own times. As the students morph into the characters they have envisioned, they tell the tale of two gay couples of two different generations in New York City. They explore the love and heartache of these complex relationships through passion and betrayal, brutal honesty and dark secrets, through life and death. The Inheritance asks poignant questions about what it means to be gay in a post-AIDS era, what the younger generation owes to its predecessors and how, despite some political triumphs, the sense of community for LGBTQ people has changed and even diminished over the years.
Who’s starring in it?
Five of the original cast members from London have transferred with the production to Broadway, including Tony Award winner and Emmy Award nominee John Benjamin Hickey as Henry Wilcox, Paul Hilton, making his Broadway debut as Walter and Morgan, Samuel H. Levine as Adam and Leo, Andrew Burnap in a show-stealing performance as Toby Darling, and Kyle Soller, reprising his profoundly moving, Olivier Award-winning performance as Eric Glass. They are joined by a terrific new ensemble of young male actors, each granted their moment to shine, as well as two-time Tony Award nominee Lois Smith, who makes a special appearance in the final act of Part 2.
What’s special about this production?
Where to begin… I don’t write this nonchalantly. I have had the great fortune of seeing many a play in my lifetime, including such landmark pieces for the gay community as The Boys in the Band and Angels in America, and I have to state that The Inheritance is simply the best play I have ever had the utter privilege to experience. Yes, at times, I can be a sucker for a lavish Broadway set (à la Moulin Rouge! The Musical) and exquisite costumes (thank you, Wicked), but there is nothing quite as compelling as storytelling at its finest. And when that storytelling pulls the strings of your heart and tickles your funny bone in equal measure and, more importantly, so intensely, you know you are in the presence of a genius playwright. Kudos to you, Matthew Lopez.
With Bob Crowley’s minimalist set and costume design (with actors often performing barefooted) offering little to distract, Lopez’s script - coupled with this outstanding ensemble cast - is the centrepiece of this astonishing work of theatre. It is accompanied by Jon Clark’s vivid, Olivier Award-winning lighting design and original music by Paul Englishby that creeps upon you like a gentle wave during the scenes that would melt even the most hardened of theatregoing hearts. Director Stephen Daldry has carefully pieced together this simplistic, yet intricate production to perfectly compliment this monumental tale for our times that truly belongs in the heart of New York City.
Who would we recommend it to?
At over six hours in total, requiring two separate visits to the Barrymore Theatre, The Inheritance is indeed quite an investment of time and money. But I, for one, can only assure you that the pace of this play leaves it feeling anything but six hours and the emotional journey is worth every cent. We must, however, give a warning that The Inheritance is brimming with sexual content, nudity, violence, and graphic language, making it only suitable for those aged 16 and above. So, for all of you that have left childhood behind and yearn for the theatre to once again make a lasting impact in your lives, look no further than this new, modern-day classic.
The Inheritance - Part 1 Tickets are available now for performances through March 1, 2020.
The Inheritance - Part 2 Tickets are available now for performances through March 1, 2020.
(Photos by Matthew Murphy)