On the surface, it is easy to make a comparison between “Angels in America” and Matthew Lopez’s new play “The Inheritance”: both are sprawling, two-part plays with large casts of characters and explore gay themes, especially HIV. However, when you look closer and move past this vague description, it becomes clear that the plays are not very alike after all (something Lopez himself has even admitted). “The Inheritance” may be similar in length to “Angels,” but it fails to live up to Kushner’s work in almost every way.
“The Inheritance” tells the story of three generations of gay men all dealing with the cultural aftermath of the AIDS crisis. It clearly wants to be a gay epic, but in spite of its large cast, it mostly tells a fairly constrained story of a gay couple, Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) and Toby Darling (Daryl Gene Daughtry Jr.). The play is loosely adapted from E. M. Forster’s “Howards End.” “The Inheritance” tries to have the best of both worlds: it wants to be both an adaptation of a novel (which has a limited scope) and a massive gay fantasia.
While it has an epic length (six and half hours), the content of the play never justifies the run time. The story could have been quite easily trimmed and streamlined, especially the lagging second part. For example, an ensemble of eight gay men who mostly act as a Greek chorus — or in the gay world, a brunch crew — had three largely unnecessary “The Boys in the Band”-style scenes. They say mean things to each other, are overly dramatic, and quickly and superficially run through a list of woke political topics like PrEP, Hillary Clinton, same sex marriage, adoption, Grindr, the death of gay bars, the value of camp, and who gets to say “yaaaas qween.” These scenes are clunky, do not advance the plot, are filled with under-developed characters, and are stuffed with talking points that the play has no intention of actually discussing (one throw away line about trans women feels particularly patronizing).
In addition to being the brunch friends, these eight actors act as narrators. The play begins with the cast all struggling to figure out how to write their story. Soon, E. M…