PROVIDENCE — Trinity Repertory Company’s productions of the Tony Award-winning play “The Inheritance” have received rave reviews since opening in September.
As the closing dates draw near — Part One closes on Nov. 5 and Part Two the next day — director Joe Wilson Jr. talked about the importance of the play’s message and of “honoring all that came before us.”
”The Inheritance,” written by playwright Matthew Lopez, focuses on the complicated relationships of three generations of gay men in New York City.
The play was inspired by E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel “Howards End” that examines social stratification in London. In his adaptation, Lopez delves into the same type of social divide — only in the LGBTQ+ community in 2015, in a post-AIDS-epidemic America.”
The play is really an omen in a way,” said Wilson, 51, who has been a resident company member at Trinity Rep since 2004. “Much of what the men talk about and what they fear from the future … we’re experiencing that now. [The play] forces us to look back and reflect.”
”Did we think we would be having the conversation about the repeal of Roe v. Wade and that we would be talking about other rights being stripped away?” he asked. “We live in a world that still needs our advocacy and our voices post-marriage equality.”
Wilson emphasized the importance of remembering and acknowledging the past — a message echoed by Stephen Thorne, who plays Walter, an older character who shares with his younger group of friends his experiences (and losses) during the AIDS crisis in New York City in the 1980s.
Thorne, 53, who has been with Trinity Rep for 22 years, also plays Morgan — a combination of narrator and the spirit of Forster — who mentors a group of young gay men whose stories come to life on the stage.
“Borrowing from one of the messages of the play is that history isn’t a static thing. It is alive and it is constantly moving and shifting about,” Thorne said. “The history of this country has become kind of a battleground in so many ways. Even in the past year, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We have to remember that these things are not certainties.”
While both men have been involved in numerous productions over the years, they both said “The Inheritance” is a special and unique play.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to direct a play that allowed me to really dig into gay culture and gay history in a way that this play has allowed me to … to understand myself not only as a gay man, but as a Black man,” Wilson said. “The gay community isn’t immune to misogyny and homophobia, to racism, sexism, classism, and all those other isms, you know, and the play speaks so uniquely to that through these three generations of gay men.”
Wilson said one of the greatest thrills — and challenges — is the “scope” of “The Inheritance.”
”It’s a big, big play,” Wilson said. “Part One runs about three hours and 15 minutes and Part Two is about the same.”
Thorne called the play a “true ensemble piece” and said “every single person involved in this production — every actor, every crew member … is so impassioned about working on this project.”
Thorne added, “I have a line as Morgan when he is leaving and says ‘Oh my lad, how I love you. You have allowed me to see what I could not live.’ That is a genuine statement. I absolutely love everyone involved in this show. It’s a real theater piece and requires a total commitment from all.”
For more information about “The Inheritance,” visit trinityrep.com.
This article has been updated to correct information about Trinity Rep. Resident Company Member Joe Wilson Jr. directed this production, but the theater group’s artistic director is Curt Columbus.