Many people in Texas will remember the halcyon days when Ann Richards, a Democrat, was Governor. The actress Libby Villari, from North Carolina, moved to Texas where she graduated from the University of North Texas with a B.A. in Theatre. In recent years she has toured in the state in a one-woman show, Ann, portraying Gov. Richards. My review of her 2019 Austin performance can be read at the link below.
Austin audiences can see Villari now in a production of The Inheritance, Part 2, at the Zach Theatre. For all the drama and angst in this play, it is Villari, portraying the aged mother of a man who died decades ago, who steals the show. (After 6 hours of an all-male cast, the audience did not even blink an eye at seeing a female on stage). Drawing upon her own charismatic persona, and channeling the homespun style of delivery characteristic of Gov. Richards, Villari brought the audience (man and women) to tears. Some were not even silent tears as I heard sobs during her soliloquy, describing the days her son told her he was gay. He left her for the big city and it was not until eight years later she saw him once again during his final hours, age only 25. This closing encounter happened at a very special house.
The house is the central and silent character in this 2-part play (with a runtime of more than 7 hours, it has to be seen in two parts). In Part 1 we learn that Walter leaves a house in the ciuntry to Eric, but Walter’s partner Henry (powerfully played by Scott Galbreath) decides not to honour his dying wish that Eric inherit the house. How Eric regains his “Inheritance” is central to this concluding portion of the play, and has multiple poignant moments. Part 2 leaves no loose ends: we learn not only the fate of all the characters in our present time, but even how their lives end decades from now. I found this generally rosy glimpse into the future to be a bit too saccharine, and it distracts from the closure we get into the lives of the characters in the present time.
There are some notable lines in the play, none more relevant than those spoken by Peter Frechette as the novelist E.M. Forster. Speaking of his book Maurice, he says to a character in the play “I never lived to understand the impact it had on its readers. You are a link in this chain of gay men. But you must love: the only way to heal heartache is to risk more.”
The play asks “What is the responsibility of gay men of one generation to another?” This is the other aspect of “Inheritance.” Knowing what previous generations (such as Forster a century ago) endured by being gay must never be forgotten. The virtues and perils of truth is a thread that runs through this second part. “I think you mistrust the truth,” Henry says to a twink character who can only understand a discussion of biology by having it translated into Game of Thrones terms. And Toby exclaims his play “is unforgivably false.” I think Henry (the only character who wears shoes in the play) finally finds his truth when he takes them off. Keep the true/false dichotomy in mind as you see this, as you must. The Inheritance Part 2 is essential theatre. Get your tickets now before it ends October 9.
Photos by Suzanne Cordeiro
My review of the play Ann is at this link:
My review of part 1 is at this link: