THE INHERITANCE

A Shelter; A Refuge; A Place of Healing

A Theater Review by Julinda D. Lewis

At: Richmond Triangle Players at the Robert B. Moss Theatre, 1300 Altamont Ave, RVA 23230

Performances: August 3 – September 17, 2022

Ticket Prices: $35 -$40; $10 for Students.

Info: (804) 346-8113 or rtriangle.org

Inheritance: the acquisition of a possession, condition, or trait from past generations

Matthew López’s epic play, The Inheritance, is nearly seven hours long and runs over two nights. It is presented in two parts, each containing three acts and two intermissions. But that is not the only thing about it that is remarkable. The Inheritance is a story about telling a story, and wise, the audience, have the pleasure of witnessing how this story is crafted. It’s not linear and it certainly isn’t pretty. The storytellers are a community of ten young gay men, living in New York City in the decades after the AIDS epidemic.

Further, it is a multi-generational story, under the guidance and mentorship of one older character (real-life author E.M. Forster/fictional character Walter Poole) played by William Vaughn, a recent Richmond transplant from NYC. There is also an older love interest, millionaire real estate developer Henry Wilcox, played with frustratingly rational conservatism by Eddie Webster. The Young Men (identified in the program by number, although they do have names during the play), are, in turn, a bridge to the next generation.  Ironically, the two younger gay men representing the next generation are played by a single actor, Lukas D’Errico, a rising junior in the Theatre Department at VCU. D’Errico, as Adam, is the recipient of a tangible inheritance, in the form of fame and fortune, while as Leo, a homeless sex worker, he is the recipient of a spiritual inheritance. One of the more stunning moments of a play that is not lacking in spectacle occurs when D’Errico has to portray a life-changing chance meeting and conversation between his two characters. Kudos to D’Errico and director Lucien Restivo for this.

For those who may be interested, there are many comments both negative and positive, comparing The Inheritance with novelist E.M. Forster’s book Howard’s End and playwright Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Forster’s novel Maurice, a tale of gay love is also prominently featured in The Inheritance. But I’m not focusing on literary comparisons – especially not with books I have not read. I am, however, fascinated with, entertained by, and enamored of  this story, written for these times, by this playwright – and his collaborating characters – played by this cast, under the direction of this director. And the bottom line for me is The Inheritance is a damned good story that left me and just about the entire audience weeping at the end of Part 2. It is one of those theatrical experiences that ends with an extended moment of silence because applause doesn’t quite seem appropriate.

Deejay Gray (narcissistic writer Toby Darling) and Adam Turck (kind-hearted, cultured activist Eric Glass) lead the cast of friends as a couple living an apparently wonderful life in a rent controlled apartment that has been in his family for three generations. [As a transplanted New Yorker of a certain age, I cannot assume that everyone knows what a rent controlled apartment is; it is one protected by an old law that prevented the rent from being raised to market rate, resulting in often elderly people paying rent less than half the going rate. No one EVER moved from a rent controlled apartment. Never. Ever. I had an uncle and aunt who lived in a rent controlled apartment in the Bronx who were paying $65 at a time when most people in their building were paying about $500.]

But, getting back to The Inheritance, things start to fall apart in the Darling/Glass household when Toby rises to success as an author and playwright. The pressure of success forces the fragile threads holding Toby’s past at bay to completely unravel. But the focus is not just on Eric and Toby. There are sometimes subliminal references to current events and to gay culture: the antiviral drug Truvada; gay bars; shared culture/appropriated culture (e.g., the assimilation of “yass qween”); trans youth; and “vengeful, murderous fanatics.”

Politically, The Inheritance is set during the time Obama was President of the United States and Clinton/Trump election was on the horizon. Tristan (Dwight Merritt), a Black, gay physician, plans to Emigrate to Canada. Eric is a liberal activist, while Henry is a closeted Republican – a family and household dynamic that became all too familiar to many in recent years.

Intellectually, some might find some of the characters and some of the conversation elitist and entitled. Tristan’s conversation is impassioned, logical, scientific, and generally intellectual; Eric invites Henry to a German Expressionist show at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), but these conversations and activities have a ring of authenticity and familiarity because they could have been recorded from my circle when I lived in Brooklyn in my thirties. Eric warns Henry that the show is four hours long, but has two intermissions and Part 1 ends with a prophetic meeting between Eric and the ghosts of his deceased mentor Walter’s friends. “Welcome home, Eric.”

“Your parents didn’t abandon you. They fled from you like the disease that you are.”   -Eric to Toby

We returned a week later to see Part 2. The intensity seemed to have been ramped up, as well as the urgency. During Part 1 I had almost dismissed Deejay Gray’s portrayal of Toby Darling as just Gray being themself, but in Part 2 as Toby descended in a world of sex, drugs, and alcohol – in a failed attempt to self-medicate and compensate for a horrible childhood – Gray’s acting skills appeared to ascend exponentially, and I was no longer watching Deejay Gray playing at acting but Toby Darling attempting to metaphorically self-immolate during a summer on Fire Island. There are more contemporary and local geographical references: the night Toby disappeared, he took the Acela (Amtrak express train) to Richmond, rented a car and drove to his childhood home in Alabama.

On the night we saw Part 2, many of the actors seemed to stumble over their lines during the first act of the evening, but by the second act they appeared to find their rhythm, and Part 2 was more powerful and emotionally moving than Part 1. At the end, Eric has finally found and accepted his calling. At the end, The Inheritance is not money or a house, but a shelter, a refuge, a place of healing. At the end, The Inheritance is not a prodigal son scrambling to claim what’s his, but a communal inheritance, and even though we’ve been given clues leading up to the final scene, it still strikes us as a surprise, because López, and Restivo, and this cast guided us to suspend our belief and take this journey with them, as good theatre should.

I absolutely loved Frank Foster’s impressive, multi-leveled library set. It was dark from wood stained by history and ghosts and perfectly manifested the private library of a book-lover’s dreams. Lucian Restivo’s sound design was subtle, but when you did notice it, it was personal and dramatic and timely. Raja Benz, the intimacy choreographer, handled the sex scenes with a boldness that was more raw than intimate, in stark contrast to the subtlety of Restivo’s sound design. Taken all together, the cast and creative team created something that felt like family, with its ups and downs, betrayals and recoveries, pain and healing. In short, it is a memorable theatrical experience that is well worth your time.

———-

Julinda D. Lewis is a dancer, teacher, and writer who was born in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Eastern Henrico County.

———-

THE INHERITANCE:

An Epic Achievement Generations in the Making

Inspired by the novel Howard’s End by E.M. Forster

Written by Matthew López

Directed by Lucien Restivo

CAST:

Young Man 3 ……………………………………………………..     Kasey Britt

Young Man 1 ……………………………………………………..     Lukas D’Errico

Young Man 5 ……………………………………………………..     Keegan Ferrell

Young Man 10 / Toby Darling …………………………….    Deejay Gray

Young Man 8 ……………………………………………………..     Kevin Kemler

Young Man 7 ………………………………………..…………..      Jacob LeBlanc

Young Man 6 …………………………………..………………..      Dwight Merritt

Margaret ………………………………………..…………………     Boomie Pedersen

Young Man 2 ……………………………………..……………..      TeDarryl Perry

Young Man 9 / Eric Glass ……………………………………     Adam Turck

Young Man 4 ……………………………………………………..     Joshua Tyler

E.M. Forster (“Morgan”) / Walter Poole ……….…..     William Vaughn

Henry Wilcox …………………………………………………..…     Eddie Webster

Understudies

For Young Man 7 and Young Man 9 / Eric Glass  = August Hundley

For Young Man 1 and Young Man 10 / Toby Darling = Keegan Ferrell

For Young Man 2 and Young Man 6 = Joshua Tyler

For Young Man 3, Young Man 4, and Young Man 5 = Brandon Duncan

For Young Man 8 = Kasey Britt

For Margaret = Stephanie Tippi Hart

CREATIVE TEAM:

Scenic Design                                      – Frank Foster

Costume Design                                  – Maggie McGrann

Lighting Design                                   – Michael Jarett

Sound Design                                      – Lucien Restivo

Properties Design                               – Tim Moehring

Intimacy Choreographer                    – Raja Benz

Hair & Make Up Design                      – Luke Newsome

Dialect Coach                                      – Louise Casini Hollis

Technical Director & Scenic Painter   – William Luther

Assistant Stage Manager                    – Christopher Smith

Assistant Director & Dramaturg         – Kendall Walker

Production Stage Manager                – Lauren Langston

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE:

August 3 – September 17, 2022

Part 1 – Preview August 3, Opening August 5

Part 2 – Preview August 10, Opening August 12

Then alternating

Part 1 August 18, 20, 21, 26, September 1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 14

Part 2 August 19, 25, 27, 28, September 2, 3, 7, 11, 15, 16, 17

Note that on September you can see Parts 1 & 2 on the same day.

Note that you must purchase tickets to Part 1 & Part 2 separately.

Promo Videos:

Photo Credits: John MacLellan

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Author: jdldances

Julinda D. Lewis is a dancer, teacher, and writer, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and transplanted to Richmond, VA. A retiree from both the New York City and Richmond City Public School systems, she is currently an Adjunct Instructor for the Department of Dance and Choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds the degrees of BS and MA in Dance and Dance Education (New York University), MSEd in Early Childhood Education (Brooklyn College, CUNY), and EdD in Educational Leadership (Regent University). Julinda is the Richmond Site Leader for TEN/The Eagles Network and was formerly the East Region Coordinator for the International Dance Commission and has worked in dance ministry all over the US and abroad (Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Puerto Rico). She is licensed in dance ministry by the Eagles International Training Institute (2012), and was ordained in dance ministry through Calvary Bible Institute and Seminary, Martinez, GA (2009).

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