Aurion Johnson, Sean Childress, Braden McCambell, Jared Auton, Andrew Newton-Schaftlein, & Remy Sisk in The Inheritance Part 2. Photo: Pandora

The Inheritance Part 2

By Matthew Lopez
Directed by Gil Reyes

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved. 

In the early days of the television mini-series, Rich Man, Poor Man, and Roots were called “a novel for television.” Even though it is not adapted from a book, by the time you have reached the end of The Inheritance after experiencing all of its glorious six hours, it has the same satisfaction of finishing a great book—a novel for the stage.

It is difficult to think of another play in recent memory that accomplishes that. The famous 8+ hour version of The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickelby by the Royal Shakespeare Company undoubtedly did. Still, that was Dickens and Victorian England. Matthew Lopez’s work is contemporary in tone and sensibility even as it uses E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End as inspiration and follows its structure closely. It heavily references the experience of surviving the Aids epidemic in the 1980s but serves much more as a requiem than an exercise in nostalgia.

Gil Reyes’ production of Part 2 picks up from the end of Part 1 with a minimum synopsis of what has come before. New relationships grow and others are ruptured by conflict that seems to develop from organic and honest human experience. The dialogue continues to chart social and political discourse in the first year of Donald Trump’s term as President of the United States in terms that express character as much as a viewpoint. We are even given a moment of sympathetic identification with a Republican businessman.

That businessman, Henry Wilcox, is gay, and one of the aforementioned survivors of the epidemic. Sean Childress’ performance makes sense of the seeming contradictions within the character with ease and conviction. The latter half of this story is a bit harder on Wilcox, but Childress never lets him leave our hearts.

Andrew Newton-Schaftlein again occupies the solid center as Eric Glass, who here discovers something of a destiny, one that includes a profound capacity for healing and forgiveness. Remy Sisk is also back as Eric’s ex, Toby Darling, whose journey from narcissistic self-absorption is more challenging. These two characters stand as diametric opposites within the narrative, which can and does work towards a measure of cliche, yet the nuance of the writing, matched by the playing, masks it in shrewd story development.

In place of the rural estate called Howard’s End in Forster’s novel, Henry’s partner, Walter treasures a country home in the Hamptons. As the action shifts to Walter’s house in Part 2, we meet the one female character in The Inheritance, Margaret, who is introduced as the caretaker of the country home but whose connection to the life and history of the property is deep and personal. Her past is explored in another long and beautifully written monologue given exquisite life by Karole Spangler. Lopez is daring and deliberate in giving the story and all of his characters time and space to breathe and connect to the audience as deeply as possible. Such material should only draw the best work from expert players, and Spangler’s performance, which might proportionally qualify as a cameo in any other work, is as rich a characterization as one is likely to find in any play of more modest length. 

The ensemble functions as a Chorus, making exposition feel effortless and interjecting humor and narrative detail with flair. In particular, two scenes of emotional confrontation illustrate the quality of the acting throughout the roster of players and spotlight the quixotic nature of the description “supporting” role. It’s a well-oiled machine.

Although I am not given to such absolute declarations, I am tempted to declare this the finest production I have ever seen from Pandora Productions. Under Michael Drury’s leadership, the company has matured from campy queer entertainment to thoughtful and resonant theatre which is the best of Louisville theatre. I do not doubt that Pandora will continue to celebrate the silly and have fun, but in a season (Drury’s last) that opened with an equally fine production of Terrence McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion!, also directed by Gil Reyes, perhaps I should expect no less, or perhaps we have been spoiled by so many years of excellence.

Lopez’s exploration of homosexual identity is deeply resonant and even more nuanced than previous examples and makes even the best of those examples feel like catalogs of gay culture tropes. That may sound less than charitable to those other works, but it was how I felt leaving the theatre after Part 2. Such a bold response portends good things for the future of Pandora, which now rests in the hands of Mr. Reyes. It suggests that The Inheritance is the perfect play for this moment in Pandora’s history, a restless but satisfying contemplation on what new generations owe their predecessors, and how imperative the need to connect to our history truly is.

Featuring Jared Auten, Sean Childress, Ian Cobb, Jacob Cooper, Michael J. Drury, Aurion Johnson, Michael Guarnieri, Braden McCampbell, Mark Martinez, Andrew Newton-Schaftlein, Remy Sisk, & Karole Spangler

The Inheritance Part 2

Part 1: March 8, 9, 21, 23, 29 @ 7:30 pm 
March 10 @ 2:30 pm; March 17 @ 5:30 pm; March 25 @ 7 pm

Part 2: March 14, 15, 16, 22, 28, 30 @ 7:30 pm
March 18 @ 7 pm; March 24 @ 2:30 pm

Pandora Productions 
Henry Clay Theater
604 S. 3rd Street
Louisville, KY 40202  

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for