After a sold-out run at the Young Vic Theatre in 2018, The Inheritance made its successful West End transfer to the Noel Coward Theatre.
The play, written by Matthew Lopez and performed in two parts, each over three hours in length, is a modern story set a generation after the AIDS epidemic and explores what it is like to be a modern gay man along with a bit of a look at the history of the LGBTQ+ community. The characters deal with their past as a community as well as their future. It’s also a play about love, inspiration and responsibility. Despite all those themes it addresses, the play luckily never loses sight of the personal stories and the beauty of the individual characters.
Set mainly in Manhattan, the play is separated into two distinct parts.
One of the main characters is Eric Glass, who is clearly the sympathetic character for the audiences. The character does grow, but also suffer a lot throughout the story. He is presented as a good man that has to go through bad things, but this does not mean that he isn’t weak. Kyle Soller, who plays Eric, gives an outstanding performance. He presents a person who has flaws that has the potential to harm himself rather than others. He makes the audience laugh, catches their attention and with his words he carries the audience deeper and deeper into the story. Soller fully embodied the character, bringing a energy and presence to the role that captives you, but also breaks your heart.
The character of Toby Darling seems to work in opposition to Eric. Despite their extremely different characteristics they start out in the story as a couple and even get engaged.Toby, played by Andrew Burnap, is one of the characters with the deepest and darkest secrets as well as one with radical flaws. His problem of dealing with rejection and loss drives him to extremes; always trying to fill the whole in him that was once filled by the relationship to Eric.
The play also explores the question what the responsibility is for different generations of gay men to help young gay men find their place in this world while not forgetting the ones lost to AIDS. We live in a world in which everything happens so fast and damage can occur in seconds but to fix it again takes a lot longer. What will be our future?
Of course politics also plays a role in the play, whenever the topic is on the AIDS crisis, it’s also about politics, but The Inheritance also explores this on a new level. It’s interesting and useful having a character such as Henry, a wealth gay Republican who survived through the years of the crisis, illustrate that the themes and issues of the play affect people from all walks of life.
While the casting in this production was on point, you can’t deny that Samuel H. Levine deserves a lot of respect for his performance. He has the unenviable task of bringing to life, not only the young man who wants his story to be told, but also stars as both Adam and Leo in the modern day. This is very complex as Adam and Leo both exist in Eric’s world and fulfill important roles. They both interact in a way that has a hard impact on Eric and Toby. Leo and Adam are so different that it doesn’t take long to notice when Levine swaps from one character to another, even if he didn’t had the costume change. You really have to see Levine act as the way he does it is so brave and intense. I loved it.
The Inheritance is a play you have to be open-minded for because of its length and complexity. Even with its hard topics and complex thoughts and questions, it manages to have a great energy through the use of the two stories. And it’s very funny. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll experience heartbreak. This play is like life itself. A tragic masterpiece.
The Inheritance plays until January 19.