Many a profound work of theatre has been written and presented on the AIDS epidemic, which include Angels in America; And the Band Played On; A Normal Heart, and Rent to name a few. Now comes the exquisite “The Inheritance,” a two part masterpiece with a smart sophisticated story and dialogue by playwright Matthew Lopez . The play is a tribute to all the glorious lives lost too soon. amidst the crux of the AIDS crisis. America today is still coping with the HIV/Aids crisis of the 80’s, and its ghosts are still haunting us, as is evident by the myriad of wandering lost souls in the aisles and onstage at the Geffen playhouse. This period of time was filled with hysteria and those infected were facing an inevitable death sentence. It’s so refreshing to witness the wellspring of performance art, the one good thing that came out of this time period, a chance for writers and actors to make meaning of this horrible plague that took loved ones’ precious lives too soon and senselessly. It’s also a chance for catharsis and mourning of the huge destruction this illness brought, and also an opportunity to fight for justice and speak out against so many political leaders, who turned a blind eye. It is thanks to kind souls like Walter Poole (Bill Brochtrup); Eric Glass (Adam Kantor); and Margaret Avery (Tantoo Cardinal), who took in the ailing and infirmed as if they were their own kin.
The play centers on Eric Glass, (Kantor), on the inheritance of his lifetime, both literally and figuratively. Beautiful language and poetic images are given right from the start, vividly recalling literary geniuses, such as E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End. As the sun sets on Walter’s life, we approach the sunset years of so many lives he touched. Another creative, yet somewhat tragic character enters the stage, Leo (Bradley James Tejada), At show’s start, he attracts Toby Darling (Juan Castano), since he resembles former lover Adam (Tejada), and we realize what all three characters have in common is that they are all lonely misanthropes. It’s tragic that they losing hope and losing friends and soulmates just at the prime of their lives. are Toby’s looking for his writing career to bring some added excitement and zest to his ordinary hum drum life. Eric is the perpetual idealist who surrounds himself with friends who are vibrant and interesting, to bring new meaning to his life upon their arrival to his home in the Hamptons. Amidst all this drama queen ado, is a subplot involving Margaret (Cardinal) , still deep in grief over her son she regretfully barely knew , and how she compensated later in life with future generations of young men afflicted with AIDS. This play takes us back to a moment in history with a nation in mourning, yet it also highlights very real, very raw personal mourning, adarker legacy, as thousands infected were dying each day. This plague took a generation of our youth, gone way too soon; and The Inheritance reveals the idea of inheritance, both material and spiritual. Two generations come together to forge a new way forward. What better way to rectify the tragic stance of history.
For the most part, I was interested and engaged, during both intensely long acts, as these strong, proactive men living out their best lives and their possible journey to find love and lucrative careers along the way. Lopez is spot on in writing good characters, dialogue and conflict; each member of the ensemble making a vivid, memorable first impression. Well directed by Mike Donahue, it’s a piece that accurately and relevantly portrays an important part of American history, but still keeps you guessing what will happen next.