Theater Review: THE INHERITANCE (The Geffen)

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by Tony Frankel on October 18, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles


That Matthew Lopez’s sprawling near-7-hour 2-part play, with 3 acts in each part, keeps us captivated is quite a feat. Beautifully written, funny, sad, and hopeful, The Inheritance — a remarkable if flawed piece of ensemble theater — is a fresh, realistic look at gay life in NYC with reflections on the consequences of the past, including personal traumas growing up gay and the gaping spiritual hole left by the AIDS epidemic. On a wooden riser around which barefoot actors sit for most of the play, Mike Donahue‘s nuanced, liquid direction hearkens back to the day when the play’s the thing, in this case a stylish, modernist revision of gay author E.M. Forster’s novel of class and morality, Howard’s End. There’s no need to have read the novel beforehand. In fact, E.M Forster himself is a kind of guardian angel who helps the boys write their own story. I love this kind of theater, even with its gimmicky narration.

Juan Castano and Adam KantorJay Donnell, Israel Erron Ford, Adam Kantor, Avi Roque, and Kasey Mahaffy

Yet even with good acting turns and whip-smart dialogue, the weighty themes and epic story become light entertainment and don’t culminate into being Lopez’s magnum opus, which Part I had promised to become. There are some stunning and gut-wrenching moments that had me thinking this could be the next Angels in America (Tony Kushner) or The Normal Heart (Larry Kramer), but Lopez is taking a kinder, gentler look at his generation in this surprisingly light entertainment with distracting gratuitous nudity. The emotional journey is pleasurable, and there’s an amazingly true to life recollection of the AIDS plague years and the impact on gay life, but it ends up not quite bringing anything new to the existing canon of gay plays. It’s also occasionally a bit cheesy — Act II in particular has an overlong, underplayed monologue by a conservative mom learning to care and heal gay men that slows the show to a halt when this “eleven o’clock number” should have electrified the play and devastated us. And while Part I is mostly expositional set-up for the more dramatic second part, it’s the first part I recommend as a standalone piece, and if you have time, the rambling, inconsistent last part for the wrap-up.

Bill Brochtrup and Bradley James TejedaBill Brochtrup, Eric Flores, Miguel Pinzon, and Adam Kantor

In this age of BIPOC recognition, you should also know that this is another gay story of and about well-off, attractive gay cis white men of NY. For a gay community story going into present times from a gay Latino playwright, one would expect it to be more diverse. All the main characters are financially secure/rich, highly educated (Lopez makes sure we know this with smart literary references), conventional white guys (except a young homeless sex worker, who later on becomes well-educated). There are people of color characters (2 Black and 1 Latino) but they are contemporary parts that are soap opera and somewhat clichéd — especially one flamboyant character.

Tantoo Cardinal and Bradley James TejedaAdam Kantor, Israel Erron Ford, and August Gray Gall

Most important for you to know: the intergenerational relevance, innovative structure and unpredictable story make for a worthy visit. Regardless of what you inherit, you will never be bored.

Bill Brochtrup, Kasey Mahaffy, and Adam KantorBradley James Tejeda

photos by Jeff Lorch

The Cast in The Inheritance Part 2

The Inheritance
Geffen Playhouse, 10866 Le Conte Avenue in Westwood
ends on November 27, 2022
for tickets, call 310.208.5454 or visit Geffen Playhouse

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