Before I saw Part 1 of The Inheritance, I had been putting off seeing the show for a very long time because I couldn’t imagine that it was worth the serious time investment: two separate theatre visits of 3 ½ hours each. I said stupid things like ‘if I’m going to see a superlong two-part show it’s going to be Angels in America’ and ‘but they’re not even singing!’ As we learned a few weeks ago, I was hella wrong, because I found Part 1 to be one of the most gripping, moving, full-blooded shows I’ve ever seen. In the few weeks I had between seeing Part 1 and Part 2, I again wished I could put off seeing the second half, but now for incredibly different reasons: I didn’t want to be finished with this story or have to say goodbye to these characters. Spending so much time with this play, the story became part of my mind the way a book does, the way dedicating so much personal time to a book results in it becoming a part of you. I didn’t want it to end. And I was simultaneously scared of how it would end, because this play isn’t exactly a romp. But even though Part 2 is not as great - after the glorious perfection that was Part 1, no second half could really ever measure up – it’s still riveting and emotional and, ultimately and most importantly, satisfying.
The main questions I had from Part 1 were, whether Eric would ever find out the truth about the house; whether he would take over the house’s spiritual purpose of providing a refuge for gay men with nowhere else to turn; and whether Eric would actually continue this relationship with Henry, the real estate billionaire who doesn’t seem to care about anything but himself. Part 1 ends with Eric finally seeing Walter’s country house and feeling the history of the place just as Walter thought he would, in a beautiful tearjerker of a scene that seemed to go on too long but also should never have ended. It created a sense of peace and importance. Part 2 opens with the exact opposite sensibility, an abrupt flip to coldness and ignorance of the house’s tranquil beauty, as Henry Wilcox (John Benjamin Hickey) tells Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) they’re ready to leave only minutes after they’ve arrived. The painful change served as a reminder that these stories aren’t going to work out easily or happily or how I wanted them to. You yearn with Eric to stay and find out more about what has happened there, and in the bigger picture you want Eric to decide that this life of helpfulness that Walter had found in the house is the kind of life he’s meant for, and that Henry’s lack of awareness in this regard shows why he’s wrong for him. Of course, that wouldn’t happen in the first scene, and so he follows Henry back to the city, even though you’re like, dude, why are you spending time with this jabronie?? But it effectively reminds you that these stories are probably not going to go how you wish they would.
The jabronieness of Henry Wilcox is amplified in the first major part of the play, and the most upsetting, when Eric has all his friends over to Henry’s $30 million house in the Village for brunch. I don’t know what he was expecting to happen, but when you bring a bunch of liberal gay men to the house of a billionaire Republican, things are gonna get ugly. In Part 1, it was hinted at that Henry was an R-word when he said he didn’t think the direction of U.S. politics was so bad, and that seemed bad enough for me. But here, they go full out and have Henry talk openly about supporting Trump because he supports what’s ‘best for the market’ and probably loves him some tax breaks because all a billionaire needs is more money. This whole long scene, I felt like Chidi with the stomachaches. Jasper, Eric’s most politically active friend, tries to talk some sense into Henry, but it’s a lost cause and the frustration I felt in my belly exploded onstage as Jasper lost his cool in the ensuing argument. Sure Jasper was wrong for fighting with Henry in his own home, I guess that’s rude, but is it as rude as someone actively making the world worse? I think not. Just go out on the sidewalk and fight the monster. This scene was well done, with Henry at least offering the arguments that aren’t ‘because I hate everyone who isn’t a white man’, and showing how Eric’s sense of morality is disappearing as he spends more time in the billionaire’s world. But it was so frustrating to have to listen to any republican apologists and to think about the diaper genie during my theatre time. Ughh the frustration at Eric for standing by this patently immoral man made me long for the craziness of Toby.
And then we get hours of craziness from Toby (Andrew Burnap)! Like I said before, if Burnap doesn’t win an Olivier and a Tony, then the awards truly don’t mean anything. We already know awards don’t mean anything but they REALLY won’t extra extra. Toby tries to feel something and escape his problems not by getting direly needed therapy or rehab, but by partying on Fire Island with the prostitute Leo (played by the same actor who plays Adam, Samuel H. Levine). The Fire Island club scenes are literally my nightmare, with all the unce unce unce music and the flashing lights and just all the noise, guys, can we keep it down. I was surprised that the focus seemed to switch from the role of Adam in Part 1 to the role of Leo in Part 2, with Adam barely in it anymore, but the actor doubling shows how important both men were for Toby in different ways. Leo’s character was fascinating and heartbreaking, and while Toby still wins the prize for Most in terms of both of those things, the ways they help and hurt each other made both characters more compelling.
Leo gets some of the most spellbinding reveals in Part 2, from the riveting wedding appearance and all the multitudes that can be said by saying just one word, to the ending when we come back to the framing device and it all makes sense. But it’s Toby this time around whose heart you worry about the most, whereas in Part 1 I was concerned most with Eric’s well-being. Eric, though misguided with Henry, shows he can remain standing on his own two feet when things get hard. Toby, on the other hand, is fragile, and even though someone who can be so horrible to others and to himself can seem tough and resilient, he’s really the one most in need of help. I find myself still worrying about Toby and heartbroken at his strife, and mad at playwright Matthew Lopez, Boy Genius, for causing him so much sadness. Oh Toby.
Interestingly, one of the aspects of Part 2 we were most keenly aware of was not the presence of something but the absence: we missed Walter (Paul Hilton). It’s remarkable how he managed to create such a warm, wise, beloved character in Part 1, so much that his absence was deeply felt, creating in our minds a semblance of what Eric and Henry must have been going through. We grieved with them.
Amid all the anxiety I had about Part 2 and where the various stories would go, I had excitement for one specific aspect: to see Vanessa Redgrave onstage. And while I mean no disrespect to this living legend, they should cut her entire part out for Broadway. They won’t, because you can’t fire Vanessa Redgrave, but they should. It’s the same exact situation as with Meryl Streep in “Mary Poppins Returns” – sure she’s a g-d ledge and you’re lucky to have her in your thing, but neither her character nor her scenes do anything to augment rather than detract from the story you’ve built. It didn’t serve the story well, and although she shares some emotional moments as she talks about her past, they weren’t anything novel and so it wasn’t enough to outweigh their feeling out of place in this play. Shame.
There’s so much I want to talk about and cry about and rant about, but I’ll avoid any more spoilers in case some of you decide to see The Inheritance when it opens on Br’dway. Suffice it to say, the total work was one of the best theatrical events ever, and I’m so glad I finally got to experience it. As my last show of 2018, it was fitting to end a stupendous year of theatre with this masterpiece.
Trying to rush this show on TodayTix is pretty much impossible - they're gone in a matter of seconds, not minutes. Luckily, the grand circle (that's the second mezzanine) is still as good a view as the royal circle (that's the first mezzanine) and slightly cheaper, so affordable tickets are still to be had. Although this Part is five minutes longer than Part 1, there is only one full intermission and one 5 minute 'pause', whereas Part 1 had two full intermissions. However, the pause is more than long enough for a sprint to the bathroom if you sit on the correct side - house right (stage left) is closest to the women's. YOU'RE WELCOME.