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Review: THE INHERITANCE, PART I at Trinity Rep

Review: THE INHERITANCE, PART I at Trinity Rep

Trinity Rep's production of Matthew López's Tony-winning play rings with joy, heartbreak, and human possibility.

An inheritance is a tricky thing. It can be a gift, a burden, or both, depending on what exactly it is, and who it is that is giving and receiving it.

In The Inheritance, Part I - the first installment of Matthew López's two-part play exploring the legacies and longings of three generations of gay men in New York City - the answers to these questions are sometimes beautiful, often messy, and endlessly complex. In Trinity Rep's current production of the Tony-winning play, the tensions and connections between these men ring with taut grace, creating a theater experience imbued with joy, heartbreak, and possibility. The production aches with its own unromanticized humanity.

In one sense, the play tells the story of the relationship between two thirty-something gay men, Toby Darling and Eric Glass, who are living in Manhattan in the mid-2010s. Just as aspiring writer Toby (Taavon Gamble) tastes success with his first book - a fictionalized account of Toby's own young adulthood, at least as he likes to reimagine it - his longtime lover Eric (Jack Dwyer) learns that he is on the brink of losing their apartment, a spacious Upper West Side flat that has been in Eric's family for three generations. The tension between the two men amplifies as their dyad expands to include Adam (Chingwe Padraig Sullivan), a young man they meet after a chance encounter at a bookstore, and Walter (Stephen Thorne), an older man who met his longtime partner (Henry, played by Mauro Hantman) in New York just as the AIDS crisis began to grip the city's gay community.

<a target=Jack Dwyer and Taavon Gamble in The Inheritance, Part I, at Trinity Rep" height="532" src="https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2196105/52339293920_8b8f4af13f_b.jpg" width="800" />
Jack Dwyer as Eric Glass and Taavon Gamble as Toby Darling in The Inheritance, Part I, now playing at Trinity Rep.

But the play also tells a much bigger story - one of the sometimes generative, sometimes uncomfortable role that this shared community history plays in the stories that gay men seek to write for themselves in the present. Connections and tensions manifest in the relationships between the play's intergenerational main characters. They also appear in the play's framing device, which has early 20th century British writer E.M. Forster (Thorne) - the author of Howards End, on which The Inheritance is loosely based, who kept his homosexuality from the public until his death in 1970 - offering advice to a chorus of young, aspiring gay male authors who, with Forster, weave in and out of the play's main action.

The cast is pitch-perfect, anchored by nuanced performances from the actors in its principal roles. Jack Dwyer endears as the intuitive, principled Eric, while Taavon Gamble simmers and charms as his restless partner, Toby. As Adam, the young man who unsettles the dynamic between these two long term lovers, Sullivan shines, capturing the character's paradoxical blend of naivety and worldliness - competing traits that draw Eric and Toby to him in different measures.

But the production's heart is Thorne, whose performances as Forster - or "Morgan," as the show's chorus affectionately calls him - and Walter are, like the best of Forster's own writing, both mesmerizing and restrained. Thorne evokes the evening's biggest laughs and keenest heartbreaks. His ability to create depth from within brief, studied silence is a subtle marvel.

Director Joe Wilson, Jr., brings the many threads of this story together with choices that highlight the fluid dynamics among the play's principal and supporting characters. There's heartbreak in The Inheritance, to be sure, but there is also so much self-referential humor - characters poking fun at themselves, their lives, and sometimes the play itself - and Wilson coaxes performances out of an excellent cast that move deftly between humor and pathos from scene to scene, even moment to moment. And the play's two-tiered set, with its white, columned interior, evokes both the upper-class apartment that Eric is on the verge of losing and an Ancient Greek agora - a subtle nod to the chorus of young creatives that seek advice from Forster, like the fledgling philosophers who followed Socrates through Athens. The set is both a public square and a personal sphere; like the production itself, it evokes the weight of cultural legacy and the pull of personal desire, as both of these forces vie to write the lives of the vibrant, complicated men at the play's center.

Trinity Rep's The Inheritance, Part I runs through November 5 at 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI. Part II of the two-part production will open September 22 and run until November 6.

Tickets to each installment of The Inheritance start at $25. They are available online at www.trinityrep.com and via phone at 401-351-4242.


Regional Awards


From This Author - Jessica Tabak

 

Jessica Tabak is a writer and teacher working in the Providence area. She has a BA in Theater and English and a PhD in English. While in college, she filled theatrical roles both on an... (read more about this author)


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