An extraordinary two-part play called The Inheritance opened at the Young Vic theatre in London this week

Matthew Lopez at the Young Vic Theatre photo by Robin Gordon

Matthew Lopez at the Young Vic Theatre
photo by Robin Gordon

starring an all-male cast plus Vanessa Redgrave. Written by Matthew Lopez, it received a flurry of largely five-star reviews from the U.K. press, including this clause from a review quoted below: “perhaps the most important American play of the century so far.” I have not, unfortunately, seen it (yet). I do, however, know Lopez’s work well and have seen all of the other plays he has had produced, some many times.

Matthew Lopez is the author of The Whipping Man, Somewhere, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, and other work. He was among the most-produced American playwrights for several years this decade and has received many awards, residencies, commissions and honors. He has written for television (including Network with Aaron Sorkin) and is now working on a film. I know as a first-hand witness (see my very first 2013 post that inspired this blog: “Watching Somewhere Bloom”) that he is a joy to watch work — intense, witty, incredibly hard-working, friendly, and thoughtful;  he cares deeply about the cast, crew and all aspects of the art he is building.

While sometimes pointing out imperfections, the reviewers of The Inheritance were largely stunned and impressed with the scope, ambition and achievement of this play, leading me to believe that it is not only a good play to see, but is likely to become an important play in the American theatrical canon.

Kyle Soller, Paul Hilton and John Benjamin Hickey photo by Simon Annand

Kyle Soller, Paul Hilton and John Benjamin Hickey
photo by Simon Annand

Here is a collection of descriptive and entertaining excerpts from reviews:

The Telegraph:

To watch The Inheritance is to pass from engaged but detached interest into a realm of total absorption before arriving at a state of emotionally shattered but elated awe. Divided into two parts and running to six hours (excluding intervals), Matthew Lopez’s American epic of gay lives present and past invites comparison with Tony Kushner’s 1990s master-work Angels in America; the astounding thing is it withstands that scrutiny. It also stands consciously in the shadow of EM Forster’s Howards End (1910): it incorporates elements of the novel, an incarnation of the author and, in Stephen Daldry’s immaculately staged world-premiere, stars Vanessa Redgrave (who was in the 1992 Merchant Ivory film) as the sole female character. She provides the heart-rending pay-off to a theatrical marathon that instantly looks like a modern classic, perhaps the most important American play of the century so far.

Time Out

 In essence it’s a New York-set drama about the relationship between the generation of gay men laid waste by Aids and the generation that came after them. It is also – and stay with me here – a reasonably faithful, albeit wantonly postmodern, adaptation of EM Forster’s ‘Howards End’. Though stuffed with characters, it effectively focuses on Eric Glass (Kyle Soller), the play’s equivalent to Forster’s heroine Margaret Schlegel. A thirtysomething NGO worker, he lives in a capacious rent-controlled Manhattan apartment with Toby (Andrew Burnap), his livewire boyfriend, the hedonistic author of a single moderately successful YA book. As ‘The Inheritance’ commences, things seem to be going well for Eric and Toby – the apartment is a bustling hub for their witty, coupled-up, exclusively gay friendship group. They decide to get hitched. They acquire a new friend, Adam, a minted young wannabe actor who seems to be going places. And Eric forges an enduring friendship with Walter (Paul Hilton), an older gay man with an apartment in their building.  But things start to fall apart: the rent control on Eric’s apartment ends; his relationship with Toby becomes strained; and Walter passes away, asking his partner Henry to give Eric the upstate home where they weathered the Aids epidemic, a request a bemused Henry and his pugnacious sons fail to honour.

The Standard

Matthew Lopez’s witty, frequently outrageous and deeply moving play has a startling ambition. Across two parts that span seven hours it’s a kaleidoscopic vision of gay life in New York — eloquent about love, longing, risk and fear, while also raising knotty questions about how much of the world we can ever truly know.

Gay Times

If all seven hours were just a slog through trauma and tragedy it’d be impossible to sit through, but Lopez has fashioned a kaleidoscopic piece that’s witty and bitchy and funny and sad and consciousness-raising and thought-provoking, luxuriating in its length to tell a story about all facets of gay life. It’s altogether extraordinary.

Vanessa Redgrave

Vanessa Redgrave



Vanessa Redgrave and Samuel H. Levine   photo by Simon Annand

Vanessa Redgrave and Samuel H. Levine
photo by Simon Annand

Matthew Lopez’s intense theatrical two-parter is like a softer, gentler, sadder version of Angels in America; less driven by fury and theatrics, but with even more heart and aching tenderness.. . . Lopez’s play. . .spans the night of the last US election and the election of Donald Trump, [it] is also bang up-to-date – and includes a gay Republican billionaire who has voted in his own self-interest by supporting him. Lopez’s liberal-leaning play dares to portray that alternative world view sympathetically.It is just one of the signs of dramatic maturity and balance in a play full of convincing feeling and legible fears, set in a landscape that embraces both the privileged and the dispossessed. HIV/AIDS, of course, did not discriminate; and it’s still with us, though it is no longer necessarily a terminal condition. But its impact remains profound, not just on a generation of survivors, but on who and what we’ve lost. As these experiences pass into history, it is thrilling to see a younger gay playwright wrestling with that past and what it means for the gay community.

Run don’t walk to this one.  The Inheritance is at the Young Vic until May 19, 2018.  Hopefully in the United States soon.

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