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The play begins with humor and a set of voicemails Toby sends the night he is magnificently sick over Meryl Streep at a party hosted by Walter and partner Henry John Benjamin Hickey at their—yes—fabulous Hamptons property. Adam is the rich boy cherry on top of this status-focused bunch, whose mother, we hear, was heartbroken when he decided to go to Yale.
Sex and intimacy in the key relationships on stage come entwined with other things like ambition and financial security. Walter watches the young men and their shenanigans, and delivers some beautifully piercing, pithy lines. He smiled, went in, and had a meal there. Henry is written broader and louder, a Trump-supporting capitalist who sees people as acquisitions.
AIDS happened. Their place upstate became a hideaway and retreat from it until Walter turned it into a refuge, leading to a fundamental fracture between them. Colin is dead.
Lucas is infected. Zach is dying from pneumocystis carinii. This is a bracing battery of subjects, and it is valuable to hear them vocalized, but they are merely said as if dutifully ticked off from a right-on roster. It is one thing to mention issues affecting trans people and LGBT people of color, but there are no trans characters on stage, and the people of color characters feel too subsidiary. The play returns to its soapily entwined, rich, white chief quartet as time pivots from hope over a Hillary Clinton election win to the reality of the dawning Trump era, whose effect on American democracy Tristan—in a beautifully written passage—likens to HIV infecting a bloodstream.
Walter and Henry orbit their own past and present, as lovestruck young men and the detached couple they became. The play also puts Forster on trial for not being brave enough to publish Maurice— his gay classic completed in and finally published in —in his lifetime, and for not being out; Forster himself agrees with this drubbing. Or that, as a Merchant Ivory movie in , Maurice became a landmark gay-themed movie, when two men being intimate on screen—and being allowed to live happily ever after—was radical. Still, Lopez interrogates all the characters. The play allows Henry to skewer liberal pieties.
If you want multiple sightings of that other gay pop-cultural familiar—hot guys in tight trunks, and a lot of skin— The Inheritance will not disappoint. But its most memorable love scene is played clothed, and is farcically hilarious. One primary care physician, one dentist, one allergist. The play is not joking with this list; if you have any status anxiety or serious gay FOMO issues, get a stiff drink before watching The Inheritance.
But the play seeks to tell a big LGBTQ story set square within such a realm, with no hinterland around it.