"The Inheritance, Parts 1 & 2," shows #851, #852
Matthew Lopez’s profound play, The Inheritance, received a sterling, sensitive, and powerful treatment at Geffen Playhouse, complete with seriously smart direction by Mike Donahue. With a cast of committed and talented performers, the The Inheritance reached its full potential in its marathon, two-part presentation, and the commitment of the audience was deeply rewarded.
Inspired by E.M. Forster’s book, Howards End, Lopez has written a script which hits all the emotional notes while infusing humor, social and political commentary, and romantic discovery and risk into the characters’ journeys. This balance allows audiences to see themselves, or at least someone they know, in the stories, the exploits, the relationships, and the hardships. It’s a modern-day play which speaks volumes for marginalized communities who have been--and continue to be--silenced. Simply set in Jaimie Todd’s barebones scenic design of a large table which moved at different heights throughout the plays, the stage craft and ensemble-like staging of the play gave way to drawing focus to the messages in Lopez’s script.
Juan Castano delivered an impassioned, charismatically sassy performance as Toby. From the first scene, as the cast portrays students in a writing class, Castano struts, strides, and monologues his way to triumphant performance. Toby’s journey of struggling writer-made-famous, while finding tender love and fierce lust a pair of demons to wrestle with, is made achingly poignant, not just as an artistic journey but a human condition which plagues so many. Adam Kantor delivered an illuminating performance as Eric, a romantically positive foil to Toby. Kantor got few moments to have the explosive lambasts to Toby as their relationships implodes before our eyes, and he made every line count with a ripping essence that grounded his frustrations, both with society at large and his relationship in its intimacy. Rounding out the principal trio was Bradley James Tejeda in the dual role of Adam/Leo. Tejeda’s good-natured charm as Adam served as a refreshing presence among the reality-based grounding of the rest of the cast. However, Tejeda’s portrayal of how Adam was navigating life in gay culture as a boy of privilege, but not as experienced as his cohorts, gave him a depth of discovery which was enthralling to see develop. His turn as Leo was a solid performance, grounded in a coherent mumbling and no indication of where the character was going to go with Toby until it became blatantly obvious. Tejeda held his own opposite the dynamic pairing of Castano and Kantor, and did so with incredible commitment to how his characters best fit in Lopez’s script.
Bill Brochtrup as Morgan/Walter Poole, delivered an astute, narratively engaging elder to the younger cast of gay characters, and whose monologue in Part 1 was a stunning display of speaking craft, complemented wholly by Josh Epstein’s splendid lighting design. Tuc Watkins gave a marvelous performance as Henry Wilcox, widower to the deceased Walter, and keeper of the actual inheritance estate in question. Watkins’ holding back of the internal was well-displayed externally as his Walter and Eric grow in their own connection. Late in the show, Tantoo Cardinal as Margaret, the sole female-identifying and presenting character, gave audiences a fantastic monologue inciting context to the surrounding area in the play while giving astute commentary to some of society’s problems through her character’s poignant lens.
The Inheritance packs an emotional punch, much of which I won’t spoil (assuming you’re unaware of Howards End), but the material is a piece of epic theatre which yes, requires many of hours of sitting and listening; but let me assure you that it will be a rapturous two-show day for you should you ever have the chance to see it.