The importance of inheritance

By Anne Sophie Parsons (She/Her)

Matthew Lopez’s 2019 theatre play The Inheritance (in Danish: Arven) showcases the importance of remembering the battles fought – and lost – when it comes to self-acceptance and LGBTI+ rights. Through reminiscing about the AIDS epidemic during the 80s and the resulting trauma it left upon a scarred queer community, it shines a benevolent light on modern America: Following a close-knit group of gay men, the play portrays history’s course, life, love, and hope, and how legacy truly binds human beings together as lovers and friends.  

What do we owe those who lived and loved before us, and what responsibility do we have for future generations? 

That is the question which ruminates at the heart of the play The Inheritance. It deals with the thematic framework of ‘coming together’ at a historical, identity-based and emotional level; by tracking the long-lasting and detrimental effect of the deaths of gay men when the AIDS crisis was at its highest, the narrative ties together three generations of lives in a dramatical tapestry, showing that only by grasping what we inherit – through family, through romantic relationships, through culture – are we able to choose our own paths in life.

With the backdrop of the AIDS crisis functioning as a reminder of lovers lost – but also found – during the play, the aftereffects of the epidemic weave effortlessly into the lives of a group of young men in modern America, reminding them of what truly matters in life, as well as leading them to find their individual life journeys. While the character of Eric Glass, a likeable and sensitive soul, has enjoyed his family’s passed-down spacious Manhattan apartment without a care in the world, the relationship with his long-term boyfriend, the charismatic but equally chaotic Toby Darling, threatens to disrupt the dynamic of their friend group. When Donald Trump wins the 2016 presidency, the young men can only gape in disbelief at the televised results: A new Republican political agenda brandishes its claws, threatening to tear up LGBTI+ rights in its wake.

A reminder that securing acceptance is never a given and may be rolled back from one day to the next. Just as the AIDS epidemic is a comparable constant historical footnote. 

The play is thus about coming together in a lot of ways – in love, understanding of the past and present and thereby self-acceptance. 

The Inheritance will be performed again from August to September 2024 at The Danish Royal Theatre in its Danish translation.

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