10/07/19: The Inheritance - Part One
What: A transfer from The New Vic/West End of Matthew Lopez's two-part epic play, which takes the narrative of E. M. Forster's Howards End and transports it to contemporary New York City, to explore the modern male gay experience, a generation whose mentors and cultural ancestors were wiped out by the AIDS epidemic.
And? This production has been hype hype hyped on its way to Broadway, celebrated as the next Angels in America. I think it's definitely worthy of the praise it's earned, though the likening to Kushner's (also) two-part creation is an unnecessary reduction, a lazy crutching on the fact that both plays are (primarily) about gay men in New York. The ambition and scope of the two works are entirely different, as is the style of writing and performance. Angels is about the soul of a country abandoned by the celestial and on the road to ruin; Inheritance is about a generation of men defying both abandonment and appropriation, holding on to each other, to their history, to themselves. Angels has the feel of the final days before the apocalypse; Inheritance is about what came after the end of the world (obviously, both plays are about a lot more, but this is my reduction) They're both important and moving works, but to lump the two together is to not bother to examine either particularly closely.
The Inheritance wins its way into my theater nerd heart very quickly, as it uses one of my favorite theatrical devices: activating the players as storytellers, telling each other the story even as they tell it to us. Bob Crowley's minimal design -- a raised platform, a collection of floor pillows and laptops, glasses of wine -- gives the actors nowhere to hide. But with this unified and dynamic cast, as directed by Stephen Daldry, there's no need to hide. I was surprised to realize how much of the play is just people talking, and how refreshing it is to see that that can still be good theater, in the right hands. This play is funny and honest and heartbreaking and elegant and naked and poignant. And I can't wait to see Part Two.