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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE INHERITANCE
at Barrymore Theatre

WINDMAN'S TOP PICK OF 2019
By MATT WINDMAN

  John Benjamin Hickey, Kyle Soller, Arturo Luís Soria, Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr., Dylan Frederick and Kyle Harris/ Ph: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Choosing the best new show (be it a play or musical or special theatrical event) of 2019 is no easy task when you consider the wide range of worthy nominees. After going back and forth between The Inheritance and Hadestown (which premiered Off-Broadway in 2016 but came to Broadway in 2019 in vastly superior form), I must choose The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez’s inspired and stunning two-part, seven-hour drama, which premiered at London’s Old Vic and transferred to the West End before making its American debut on Broadway.

No other show matches the sense of humor, imagination, history and earnest contemplation of The Inheritance, which brings together the 1980s AIDS crisis, young gay men in contemporary New York and E.M. Foster’s 1910 novel Howards End. It is tempting to compare The Inheritance with Angels in America, which is also a two-part, six-act drama centered on AIDS, historical connections and politics – and I suspect that the surface similarities caused some critics to judge The Inheritance too harshly. However, it stands on its own as a separate work with a very different sensibility.

In spite of its length, The Inheritance is absorbing and surprisingly easy to follow. Stephen Daldry’s production is marked by nonstop theatrical ingenuity and collaboration, with the large and vibrant ensemble actively taking turns bringing the complicated saga to life.

I attended both parts of the play on a single day. Following the unbelievable and unforgettable end of the first part (in which its young protagonist visits a long-deserted country house and is greeted, one by one, by the ghosts of AIDS victims), I was barely able to leave my seat and could not imagine waiting another two hours for the second half to begin. The end of the first act of part one (in which the protagonist learns that living through the AIDS crisis was the equivalent of watching most of your friends get sick and die) is similarly unforgettable.

 


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