While he spoke, the actors in the room listened attentively, reacting with laughs but almost never interrupting. Jordan Barbour, a gay member of the cast, said later, “I’m normally a very vocal person, but that day I was silent.”
They did ask, though, about what it was like when homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — which White said suddenly made gay men a minority group, no longer sufferers of a psychological illness.
“It’s a minority where you don’t grow up with your parents belonging to the same minority,” White explained. “And with AIDS, there was such a rupture. There wasn’t much of a culture passing from one generation to another.”
This disconnect, of a gay lineage severed, is in many ways at the heart of “The Inheritance.” Kyle Soller — he isn’t gay but grew up friendly with older gay men in local theater and says he now feels he has been brought “deeper within the community that has always been kind to me” — plays Eric, who wonders “what his life would be like if he had not been robbed of a generation of mentors, of poets, of friends and, perhaps, even lovers.”
There is a personal dimension to the yearning for Lopez himself: 42 years old, he bore witness to the AIDS crisis while not truly being part of it. Unlike Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” his play was not written from the front lines of the epidemic. (Nevertheless, it will probably be compared to “Angels” because of its length and subject matter.)
It’s personal, too, for several members of the cast. Some of them lived through the history “The Inheritance” imagines. The director, Stephen Daldry, is 59; John Benjamin Hickey, 56, who plays Henry Wilcox (the least subtle tip of the hat to “Howards End”), moved to Manhattan in the early 1980s; and Lois Smith, the only woman in the cast and by far its oldest member at 88, lost dear friends to AIDS.