If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture, you would pretty much be left with Let’s Make a Deal. — Fran Lebowitz
Matthew López’s THE INHERITANCE—at the Geffen Playhouse in a production directed by Mike Donahue—is inspired by E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End. A cursory awareness of “Morgan” Forster’s position in literary history and the queer pantheon is useful. After all, his benevolent spirit—embodied by Bill Brochtrup—is a character in the play, which covers the years from 2015 to 2018. But one needn’t have retained an accurate memory of the novel or its characters to be captured by the intelligence, humor, and epic sweep of López’s contemporary update. Performed in two parts of just over three hours each, THE INHERITANCE examines a self-selected community of well-read, aspirational, middle-class gay men in Manhattan at what they feel might be a fraught moment. Gay bars have given way to online hookup sites, AIDS is no longer a fatal diagnosis, and unprecedented freedoms—to marry, to assimilate—raise questions about identity and purpose: What distinguishes a contemporary gay man in today’s society? The fact that a crypto-fascist fraud has captured the White House clarifies notions of “progress” for more than a few of the characters.
These characters include a playwright, an actor, a hustler, political activists and medical professionals, a couple expecting their first child, and so on. As members of this group of friends and lovers find their way, Part 1 of the play unfolds as a life-in-progress work-in-progress, a cultural forum where the players both comment on one another’s actions or perform them in turn. The ghost of Morgan Forster is on hand to guide and amend—to the author’s famous admonition to “only connect,” add “only revise.” Secrets and lies are revealed and dealt with or buried under a cloud of self-medication. As in Howards End, all roads lead to a mysterious house in the country, repurposed by Walter (Brochtrup again) in the 1980s as a sanctuary for young men dying of AIDS, and waiting for its rightful owner to finally take possession.
The riveting drama—and Forster’s presence—that propels the play’s first half deflates somewhat in Part 2 amidst the inevitable flows of capital. When the billionaire waiting in the wings steps forward with lectures about economic libertarianism and provides a very soft landing for his nearest and dearest, it’s hard to care quite so much about even the best of intentions. Not that every problem has a monetary fix. Playwright Toby Darling (Juan Castano), a magnetic wreck with too much history to overcome, unravels with great flair and melodrama, the only way he knows how.
The final act brings Margaret (Tantoo Cardinal) to the scene to tell the long, devastating story of her late son’s last months at the house. Returning after his death, she eventually takes over as the resident caretaker. In the end, this particularly queer inheritance of human connection and care gets passed on by this generation to the one that follows, its lessons in love and patience informing a path through struggles yet to come.
See link below for details.
Written by Matthew López
Directed by Mike Donahue
Through November 27
10886 Le Conte Avenue, Westwood, Los Angeles
Matthew López, The Inheritance Part 1 & Part 2, directed by Mike Donahue, Geffen Playhouse, September 13–November 27, 2022, from top: Juan Castano (blue shirt) and Adam Kantor; Avi Roque (from left), Israel Erron Ford, Kasey Mahaffy, Jay Donnell, August Gray Gall, Kantor, Eddie Lopez, and Castano; Bill Brochtrup (as E. M. Forster) and Kantor (foreground); Roque and Ford; Donnell and Lopez; Miguel Pinzon, Kantor, Tuc Watkins, and Gall; Bradley James Tejeda; Tantoo Cardinal and Tejeda; Pinzon and Lopez; the cast in Part 2. Photographs by Jeff Lorch, courtesy of the Geffen Playhouse.