'Only Connect.' Meet the Cast of Boston's 'The Inheritance'

Monday May 30, 2022
Originally published on May 27, 2022

Jared Reinfeldt (center) and cast members from the SpeakEasy Stage Company's production of "The Inheritance"
Jared Reinfeldt (center) and cast members from the SpeakEasy Stage Company's production of "The Inheritance"  (Source:Nile Scott Studios)

One of the most rewarding theater experiences in Boston this spring is "The Inheritance," Matthew López's ambitious and sprawling, two-part drama that uses E.M. Forster's "Howards End" to link 21st-century millennial gays with the generation of gay men before them devastated by HIV. By the end of its six-hour plus running length at the Roberts Studio Theatre, where the play is being given an intimate, first-rate production by the SpeakEasy Stage, the actors and the audience achieve a rare synergy.

And that synergy can be seen in the company itself, which displays the best in ensemble acting. There isn't a weak link amongst them, and their sense of camaraderie is one reason this production, directed by SpeakEasy Stage Company's artistic director, Paul Daigneault, makes for such a rare, communal experience. As ensemble member Kees Hoekendijk points out in the interview below, by the end of the second part, especially when audience members see both parts on the same day, "it feels as though the ensemble on stage (and around the stage) and the audience become one — we all develop opinions and connections to the characters and are all taken on this deeply impactful journey together."

The production is also the first to be produced outside of London, where it had its premiere, and New York, where it won the Tony last year for Best Play but curtailed its original run due to the COVID shutdown. It did not reopen. The Boston production continues with both halves in repertory through June 11. For more information,|visit the SpeakEasy Stage website.

The two-part drama's characters — all gay men, save for one woman who appears towards the end of the second half — are richly drawn by López, giving each actor a moment to shine. EDGE caught up with the company to ask them about their characters and the play's central topic — the AIDS epidemic and its impact.

Benjamín Cardona

Benjamín Cardona
Benjamín Cardona  

Benjamín Cardona plays Jason 1, a lawyer, who has found his soul mate (in the slyly named Jason 2) as they plan their marriage and family.

You and colleague Ricardo 'Ricky' Holguin play a confident, loving same-sex couple that is relatably funny. You also share the same first name. But have you thought about as to why Matthew López would give you both the same name?

Thank you! Ricky and I clicked immediately during†rehearsals, which made the relationship work a breeze.†

As to "Why the Jasons?," I think Matthew must've experienced (as I have) couples who seem like carbon copies of one another, hence the same name. It could've initially been a commentary [that is] no longer perceived the same, considering how the play evolved from its premiere in London to what it is today.†

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I remember learning about AIDS when I saw†"Philadelphia"†in the '90s, but it took me some†years to learn about the†epidemic. I remember sitting down in 2003 to watch the†"Angels in America"†mini-series on HBO. I follow directors, and Mike Nichols was on my radar then. I had not come out just yet, but I knew there was something different about me. I just hadn't acknowledged what it was. I was immediately captivated by the series, which led me to read both plays and learn more about the epidemic.†

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

There are two that speak to me:†

Adam: "What does love look like to you?"†(When speaking to Eric about Toby)

It's a clever line that helps reveal Eric's giving nature and vision of unconditional love.†

Young Man 2: "Leo understood the simple yet powerful connection of a gay man in the early twentieth century speaking directly to a young gay man at the start of the twenty-first."†

This line supports one of the main themes†of the play, which is what others who've come before us have done, and how that work surpasses the barrier of time from generation to generation.

Brandon Curry

Brandon Curry
Brandon Curry  

Brandon Curry plays Tristan, an ER doctor, best friend and moral compass for Eric Glass, who never flinches from being authentic.

You play Eric's most caring and honest friend. How do you relate to Tristan's compassion?

The reason I relate to Tristan the most is his ability to find everyone where they are. He has a loyalty to the truth. He is unapologetic and fierce, but he is understanding. He understands that everyone walks a different path, and, by forging his own, encourages those around him to do the same. Those are all things Tristan and I have in common.†

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

My grandmother lost her youngest brother. His funeral was the first time I'd ever heard of it. I can't explain the horrific level of grief left behind in his absence.†

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

"Oh Henry. You can't afford me."

I think that captures Tristan's energy immaculately.†

Mark H. Dold

Mark H. Dold plays two major roles: Morgan, the stand-in for author E.M. Forster, whose novel "Howards End" is used as the play's narrative. And Walter, the older gay man who befriends Eric Glass and, inexplicably, leaves him his country house.

As the fussy Morgan and the fading Walter, you act as the catalyst for so much of the story. How much of Morgan is in Walter and Walter in Morgan?

Interesting. I don't actually think of Morgan as fussy or Walter as fading.†They are both a product of their eras, their lives, their circumstances.†But... if we stick with Matthew's play structure, Walter is entirely an invention of Morgan's. As the other characters are invented by the Young Men. So, you could say that 100% of Walter is in Morgan. And vice versa.†

They are both there to teach.†To help the Lads understand their history. There is an innate hope in both that if the young-uns learn about those that came before them — the battles won and lost — that they will pass along that legacy with pride and power. †

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I'm old enough to remember it all. ††I lost friends, and colleagues.†I moved to New York City in 1986, and remember being able to "see it." In someone's face, in someone's body on the street. To quote Walter — "It was clear in one glance that he had it." But, I was in high school when it started to hit the news. As shameful as it is to admit, the virus delayed my coming out. By years. Young gays don't understand what AIDS did to generations of men.†I imagine this remarkable post-Stonewall time when so much was possible. Visibility and inclusion were possible. Self-love. But the '80s, the middle/late '80s, was a time when people actually climbed back into the closet. Delayed or possibly never came out. †

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

"The only way to heal heartache is to risk more." — Morgan, Pt 2, Act 2

Travis Doughty

Travis Doughty
Travis Doughty  

Travis Doughty plays the younger version of Henry Wilcox, the tycoon with whom Eric becomes involved, in flashbacks.

You get to play the younger version of Henry Wilcox in flashbacks. Henry is something of a Master of the Universe in today's world, but was less assured in the past. How did you arrive at a less confident Henry?

It's interesting how Matthew López has carefully chosen to include the younger versions of Henry Wilcox and Walter Poole. Because, at times, the young version of Henry seems to know more — he seems to have a deeper awareness of his mistakes and what needs to happen to correct them — than older Henry will allow himself to see. This provides a fascinating dynamic for me as the actor to tap into — it's almost as if Young Henry is coming to light in an attempt to help Henry find the path that will lead him to those final moments of our play. It's certainly a lot of fun to play around with, especially with Dennis Trainor as a counterpart.†

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I honestly think my first encounter with the epidemic was at a younger age when I first watched Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia." It showcased New York during that time in a way I had no idea existed, and haunted me, if I'm honest, in a way I still come back to occasionally.†

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

"The only way to heal heartbreak is to risk more." López knew what he was doing with that one.

Kees Hoekendijk

Kees Hoekendijk
Kees Hoekendijk  

Kees Hoekendijk plays Charles Wilcox, one of Henry's sons, and an agent for Toby, who gets to say a line that gets a huge response from the audience with a meta-comment on the play.

As an agent for Toby Darling, you give him some pointed feedback about the unwieldy length of the play he has written. As part of a play with an unwieldy running time, what do you think of the demands it makes on its audience and ensemble?

After being with audiences for a few weeks now, I've come to realize that the unwieldy running time has brought upon more advantages than demands. Especially on days when both parts are performed, it feels as though the ensemble on stage (and around the stage) and the audience become one — we all develop opinions and connections to the characters and are all taken on this deeply impactful journey together. The show never stops moving in the whole six and a half hours, so it's a magical feeling when you can sense that everyone in the room is listening to one another, leaning in, and waiting to hear what's next.†

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

Growing up in San Francisco and going to school near the historic Castro district, I was lucky enough to attend a school that proudly taught queer history to its students. However, it was still theatre (namely shows like†"RENT"†and†"Falsettos") that brought the scope of the epidemic to life for me as a young teenager.†

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

Walter: "The answer, I realized, was not to shut the world out but rather to fling the doors open and to invite it in."

Ricardo 'Ricky' Holguin

Ricardo 'Ricky' Holguin
Ricardo 'Ricky' Holguin  

Ricardo 'Ricky' Holguin plays Jason 2, a school teacher, who has found his soul mate (in the slyly named Jason 1) as they plan their marriage and family.

I asked your colleague Benjamin Cardona about playing the other half of the confident, loving same-sex couple that is relatably funny. Your characters also share the same first name. But have you thought about why Matthew López would give you both the same name?†

I've thought about this for myself as well, and I believe it's to give the comic effect that the chances of marrying someone with the same name is higher in same-sex couples, rather than a straight couple. In straight couples, you may not end up with someone who has the same name as you, unless it's a gender-neutral name,†but the odds are still†slim to none. But the possibility of being named "Jason" and falling in love with another person named "Jason" is quite funny, but also, very possible, simply because you would find more common names in gay relationships rather than a straight one.†

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

For me, it was when I had to test a patient for HIV at the health clinic I used to work for, and having to give him his HIV positive diagnosis made me understand that, as a community, we are still not done at doing the work of getting to zero new infections. It made me realize that even though there are condoms, PrEP, and PEP, this virus is still out there, and people are still seroconverting despite how far we have come.†It made me reflect on how minorities of color and undocumented immigrants are still being affected by this epidemic, and institutions need to continue to provide better resources and education in order to stop the spread of new infections and address the barriers within the system that prevents these individuals from getting the care and attention they need.

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

There are many lines in the play that are my favorite, but one that takes my breath away every time is Henry's line, "...you've been the author to all my recent smiles." My partner makes me feel like this every day, and that particular line resonates with me fully.

Greg Maraio

Greg Maraio plays Jasper, who is a social activist and boss to Eric Glass, the story's protagonist.

Your character, Jasper, has some very specific opinions and is pretty open about them. How do you relate to the character and his — how shall I say it — smugness?

Well, Jasper is much more intelligent than I. He's definitely not afraid to voice his opinions, but he has the knowledge to back it up. Unfortunately, sometimes he seems a bit oblivious to his own privilege. I'm a Libra, so we have the reputation of being pot stirrers, so I can definitely relate to that aspect of Jasper, but I'm not nearly as fearless and uninhibited in giving my own opinions. I do believe that under that layer of smug for him is someone who cares very deeply, with a vulnerability that he will never let anyone fully see.

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I grew up in the '80s, so I definitely remember the AIDS epidemic. I especially remember the coverage of Ryan White's story, but I am also still saddened and shocked by how little was done at the time. I, like so many others, entered every relationship with a fear of intimacy since [AIDS] was still a death sentence. I'm grateful for how far we have come, but heartbroken with all those lost along the way because of fear and hatred.

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

When asked if he wants children: "Children are dirty diseased bloodsucker who get their grubby little fingers all over your expensive furniture."

Paula Plum

Paula Plum
Paula Plum  

Paula Plum plays Margaret Avery, the caretaker for Walter's country house who arrives late in the second half with her own touching narrative.

As the sole woman in the company whose character arrives very late in the play, you have a scene that could be a one-act in itself. What did you draw upon from your own experiences in shaping your character?

I was alive when the AIDS epidemic was killing young men in staggering numbers — the early '80s. One of my dear friends, Joe Braz, suddenly became ill, and we all learned through him what it meant to die of AIDS. It was horrifying. I remember attending the AIDS quilt display at the Boston Armory and discovering two classmates' names embroidered on the quilt. So, answering your question, I've lived a little part of what Margaret Avery has experienced. I've held the hands of some of my friends as they were dying of AIDS.

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

Yes. Walter says at the end, "You do what they could not, you LIVE!"

Jared Reinfeldt

Jared Reinfeldt
Jared Reinfeldt  

Jared Reinfeldt plays Toby, Eric Glass's bf at the play's start, who popular, autobiographical novel may not be everything it seems. As Toby is himself.

Toby is both volatile and complicated. He is charismatic and very attractive, but has this little lost boy quality that you capture from the onset. His journey is, sadly, like many in the queer community. Do you know anyone like Toby in your real life?

Yes. I think many of us know people like Toby — brokenhearted children who grew up unprotected in a world that still debates whether our lives are as valuable as those of our neighbors. It's one of the reasons I find our story so vital — the charge to educate our children, to shield them, to love them unconditionally... to protect them from becoming lost, as Toby has.

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I came of age in Nashville, and gay history — queer history — was never discussed in school. I suspect they still skip over it. I think that my interest in theater led me to read "The Normal Heart" and "Angels in America," which were probably my first touchstones to the epidemic.

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

Morgan: "I think your lives are beautiful. And I know at what cost they have come. Tell your story bravely. It is a story worth telling. Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other."

Jo Michael Rezes

Jo Michael Rezes
Jo Michael Rezes  

Jo Michael Rezes plays the younger version of Walter, whose relationship with Eric Glass leads to the drama's central conflict.

You play the younger version of Walter. Why do you think he is even attracted to someone so dissimilar from him as Henry Wilcox?

I think Walter is attracted to the gentle heart that is at the core of Henry Wilcox. Walter is drawn to tenderness and people who haven't quite discovered their purpose. Walter questions everything, and tries to heal everyone else. I think part of him knows that Henry will eventually come to understand the true importance of their house upstate.

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

My first real intellectual encounter with the AIDS epidemic was in a college class I took called "How Queer is That?," taught by the amazing Hiram Perez at Vassar College. We learned about manifestos and protest actions by members of ACT UP NY.†

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

It's one of Young Walter and Eric's lines, said to Henry at the same time, actually: "If you keep running from this... from what happened at that house, from what is happening to our friends, to our community. You will never know peace."†

I think it's a beautiful reminder to remember the past and to face our fears. Only then can we move forward.†

Eddie Shields

Eddie Shields
Eddie Shields  

Eddie Shields plays Eric Glass, the play's central character, who becomes involved with an older gay man, Walter, and develops a friendship with unusual ramifications .

Eric is at the center of the story, and his relationship with Walter links the past with the present. But he also falls for Henry. Why?

Initially, Henry and Eric find a bond through grief — they've individually experienced profound loss. Eric made himself (or so he thought) the perfect partner for Toby for seven years, and when that disappears†he loses a bit of his identity. Henry shows Eric a world†he's never known while offering him companionship†and the literal means to become the man he wants to be. Eric isn't used to being taken care of by a partner, and I think he convinces himself this is what he wants.†

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I remember, maybe I was 6 or 7, watching Freddy Mercury on TV and being in awe. I was electrified†by his power, beauty, and talent. Then this program took a sharp, hard tonal shift, and all of I sudden†I was smacked in the face by these horrific images/videos of Gay men suffering from AIDS as they related to Mercury. In the span of 60 seconds I digested the idea that being Gay, while magical, comes at a horrifying cost.†

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

Morgan says to the lads, "You have allowed me to see what I could not live."

Dennis Trainor Jr.

Dennis Trainor Jr.
Dennis Trainor Jr.  

Dennis Trainor Jr. plays Henry Wilcox, a wealthy businessman who came of age during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, who finds himself involved with Eric Glass

In many ways, Walter represents everything that Eric and his friends loathe — excessive wealth, selfishness, and a genuine lack of compassion. Why would Eric fall for someone with such dissimilar values?

[Dennis understood this question to be about Henry Wilcox, based on the content of the question, and answered accordingly.]

I love how Matthew López makes this so clear. When Henry proposes marriage to Eric, he says, "I can provide you with the freedom to find meaning in your life. To become the man you're meant to be. All I ask is that you share your spirit with me." And the truth is, even though this marriage will not last, both men get what Henry asks for in that proposal. It's heartbreaking and beautiful.

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I was in high school on Long Island in the 1980s. My friends and I used to take trips into NYC on the weekends, and my first understanding of the AIDS crisis was through experiencing Barbara Kruger's street art in support of ACT UP, including, but not limited to, the Silence = Death campaign. I think ACT UP is among the most effective activist organizations to blend art and storytelling in such a clear and immediate way — one that was incredibly effective — on both my teenage mind and on actual local, state, and federal policy.

Mishka Yarovoy

Mishka Yarovoy
Mishka Yarovoy  

Mishka Yarovoy plays the dual roles of Adam and Leo. Adam is a social-climbing actor who ingratiates himself with Eric Glass and Toby Darling. Leo is the hustler (and Adam's lookalike) who becomes Toby's bf. At one point in the second part, Adam meets Leo on the street.

You get to play your doppelgänger — even having a conversation with yourself at one point. What is that moment like for you?

The scene between Adam and Leo felt like the most daunting to me from the start of rehearsals. I knew that I would have to find the most distinct bodies in each character for that moment to work — for the audience to really feel like they are watching two different people having a conversation. So, I spent a lot of time gathering imagery for Adam and Leo and letting it inspire my movement. I had this sort of vision board/notebook with a bunch of different photos for each character — colors that reminded me of them, animals, landscapes, apartment buildings, elements, etc. I found that Leo was inspired by water, blue/gray colors, the sea, wind, birds. Adam's images, on the other hand, were fire, red and orange tones, leopards and tigers. These images were crucial for me when it came to building that one-person scene.†

It was also really fascinating to feel the emotional shifts I experienced during this week — as if my feelings were making 180 degree turns every second. Leo is in such a desperate, devastating place, while Adam is fighting so hard to save him. The emotional back and forth can get a bit confusing at times, but I found that as long as I deeply tap into Leo's circumstances — his pain, loneliness, and exhaustion — Adam's desire to save him follows along on its own. So, finding Leo emotionally automatically brings along Adam, which is lovely for me.†

What was your first recollection of the AIDS epidemic?

I grew up in Mexico and Russia, and neither of those places spoke much about the AIDS epidemic. I feel like the first time I really understood what this epidemic was, and how it affected people, was my freshman year of high school in the United States, when I was introduced to the play†"Angels in America." Before that I had heard of the disease, but had no real background knowledge on it, other than the fact that it mostly affected gay men.†

Do you have a favorite line from the play?

My favorite line in the play comes from Morgan in Part 2 — when he is talking to Leo: "The only way to heal heartbreak is to risk more."