Paul Hilton standing, Kyle Soller, John Benjamin Hickey) Photo by Samuel H. Levine
There is no way not to be touched by Matthew Lopez’s well written and touching play, The Inheritance, unless you have a heart that is too sizes too small. Following two generations of gay men living in post-AIDS Manhattan we hear their pain, experience their struggles, laugh hilarious with them, feel their passions and inhabit their culture and lifestyle.
Approximately seven hours long and in two parts, you will see this not as an indulgent work, but a through telling of these men and a house that brought so much healing. The Inheritance will have you in its grips from its first moment to its last.
In the play men of this era are obsessed with the closeted author E.M. Forster (the fabulous and drool Paul Hilton), and his 1910 novel Howards End and his homosexual novel Maurice. Forster appears to lead, hear and teach this sexually free and merry band of men who have their own rules, offering his wisdom and compassion.
In the novel and the play a country farm house is at the center. Eric Glass (a steadfast Kyle Soller) lives in a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side with his narcissistic and promiscuous boyfriend, Toby Darling (a blazing Andrew Burnap). Toby, tormented by his childhood, has made up his life’s backstory and has written a novel about his false persona. When Eric proposes, Toby says yes, but when his novel becomes a play, Toby becomes obsessed with the actor Adam (the intense and dazzling Samuel H. Levine), playing him. Toby breaks it off with Eric to be with Adam who rejects him.
Toby, now alone finds Leo (also played by the heartbreaking Levine), a boy for hire on-line, who looks just like Adam. Leo is so broke that his poverty, prostitution and drug use leads to AIDS.
In the meantime Eric, cares for an ailing older gentleman Walter Poole (also played by Hilton). During the AIDS crises Walter turned his home in upstate New York, to a hospice where he tended to men afflicted by AIDS. His longtime companion billionaire real estate developer Henry Wilcox (a cold and wonderful John Benjamin Hickey), was so repulsed by having these afflicted men in their home, he deeded the house to Walter, who upon his death bed bequeathed it to Eric. Henry and his two sons burn the note giving Walter’s instructions.
Henry and Eric spend time together and get engaged. Henry, is an unapologetic Republican and Trump donor, who clashes not just with Eric but his liberal friends. This is not a match made in heaven.
Eric does find his path to the country house and in doing so brings to life the men who didn’t survive. The men in the play learn their history, as do we. We meet Margaret (Lois Smith), the caretaker and mother of a son she turned her back on, who ended up in the house, leaving way too early. Both Margaret and the ghosts of the past urge Eric to continue the saga. Henry sees this was Eric’s inheritance, all along and the house is finally in its rightful hands.
Director Stephen Daldry (The Crown, Billy Elliot), masterful hand has taken Lopez’s powerful and simple play and cast a spell that will be hard to break. You will be thinking about this play for days, months and years as it gets under your skin.
A better cast could not have been picked, as they this bring this emotional powerhouse so close to home. Having lived through the AIDS crisis, I remember how friends and acquaintances, were here one day and gone the next. This play hit home and gave it the humanity that this era deserves.
I am predicting right now that The Inheritance will win the Pulitzer, The Tony for Best Play, the Drama Desk, The Outer Critic Circle and every other accolade that is out there. It will be well deserved, as this is a play that will live on.
The Inheritance: Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W 47th St.