Review: First Part of 'The Inheritance' Soars at Trinity

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday September 16, 2022

Jack Dwyer and Taavon Gamble in "The Inheritance, Part One"<br>
Jack Dwyer and Taavon Gamble in "The Inheritance, Part One"
  (Source:Mark Turek)

Matthew Lopez's "The Inheritance" is a sprawling work, inspired by E.M. Forster's "Howards End," with scenes that correspond to his important and much-celebrated 1910 novel—itself a commentary on the class structure of Edwardian England. For his two-part play (the second half begins performances on Sept. 21), Lopez brings us two generations of gay men, a younger group forging their relationships amidst the political turmoil of a recent election and an older couple who have ties beyond their age to the AIDS epidemic of the '80s and '90s. 

In Part One, we are introduced to our main protagonists Eric Glass (Jack Dwyer) a political activist and his live-in boyfriend Toby Darling (Taavon Gamble) who is a promising novelist whose first book is optioned for a stage adaptation. Two men will enter their lives and dash them apart: Walter (Stephen Thorne), a kind, sickly man who lives with his mogul husband Henry Wilcox; and Adam (Chingwe Padraig Sullivan) a privileged young man who aspires to be an actor. Eric passionately loves Toby, but he's a self-obsessed playwright looking to make a name for himself with his latest work. 

Toby and Eric's friends are a melting pot of types that are fleshed out by Lopez to have distinctive personalities and played by the talented, young actors, whose comments and asides help further the narrative. Thorne also pulls double duty as E.M. Forster himself, providing commentary in the style of a Greek chorus. But front and center for Part One are the two couples: younger Eric and Toby and their older counterparts, Walter and Henry. As Toby's play finds its way to Broadway, he becomes smitten with Adam; while Eric learns of Walter's work taking in terminally ill AIDS patients into Henry's country house, here the substitute for Forster's country home for which he named his novel, the ownership of which becomes a contentious plot point. Eric proposes to Toby and he accepts during a night of passion, but it will be short lived.

Directed by Trinity Rep company member Joe Wilson Jr., Lopez's work soars, and is well-played by the talented cast. Dwyer is excellent as the heartsick Eric, he brings much intensity to the role. Gamble, who has been in several local performances is absolutely electric as Toby, he embodies the man obsessed with having it all. Newcomer Sullivan makes his Trinity Rep debut and he's most definitely up to the task, giving Adam some complex layers in his performance. Thorne is the shining characterization here, however, as his Walter is a revelatory and invigorating performance. 

"The Inheritance, Part One" shows the complexity of gay relationships for both older and younger men as well as people of different classes; it lays bare the AIDS epidemic and its lasting effects on society as a whole and places modern politics under a microscope. Yet, you will be drawn into this world and captivated by its story immediately, despite its length (three and a half hours with two intermissions). By its conclusion, Part Two will be highly anticipated. 

"The Inheritance, Part One" is running through November 6th and Part Two begins on Sept. 22 at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington St., Providence, RI 02909. For information or tickets call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com. 

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