'The Inheritance' Sets Early Closing on Broadway

The Inheritance Group Shot - Publicity - H 2020
Matthew Murphy

Matthew Lopez's intimate two-part epic about gay New Yorkers in the wake of the AIDS crisis will play its final performance March 15, cutting short a commercially disappointing run.

One of the anticipated frontrunners for best play honors at this year's Tony Awards, The Inheritance, will not be hanging around until nominations are announced on April 28. 

Lead producers Tom Kirdahy, Sonia Friedman Productions and Hunter Arnold confirmed Thursday that Matthew Lopez's two-part drama, which was inspired by the classic E.M. Forster novel Howards End and examines the legacy of the AIDS crisis for contemporary gay New Yorkers, will play its final performance March 15 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. 

While no original closing date had been set, the production initially was expected to run at least through the Tonys in June, on the strength of rave reviews from London, where it won four Olivier Awards in 2019, including best play, best director for Stephen Daldry and best actor for Kyle Soller. 

Original ensemble member John Benjamin Hickey took a four-month leave of absence in January to direct the incoming Broadway revival of Plaza Suite with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker; Tony Goldwyn stepped in Jan. 5 to replace him in The Inheritance and was expected to remain with the production until Hickey's return. However, the writing has been on the wall for months that the play was unlikely to hold out that long.

Despite generally positive reviews in New York, including quite a few raves, The Inheritance struggled to gain traction at the box office almost from the start, demonstrating the challenges of mounting a two-part production at Broadway prices, particularly one perceived as having niche appeal. It began previews Sept. 27 at the Barrymore and officially opened Nov. 17.

The production earned 65 percent of its gross potential in its best week but more often was considerably lower, dropping to 30 percent or less in the last fortnight. An overhauled marketing campaign didn't help. For the week ending Feb. 16, the play grossed $345,984, bringing cumulative box office to a modest $9.7 million. Those figures make it almost certain that The Inheritance will close with the complete loss of its $9.1 million investment.

"From its first preview at the Young Vic in 2018 through the West End and Broadway runs, audiences have been profoundly moved by Matthew Lopez's beautiful play and Stephen Daldry's stunning production," the producers said in a statement. "We are all extremely proud of this production and the 32 actors who bring this ambitious story to life eight times a week and honor the legacy of those we've lost to the AIDS epidemic."

The producers and creative team now face a test in keeping the play on the radar, first of the Tony Nominating Committee and then of the awards voting body. Productions that have closed before the nominations window traditionally are at a disadvantage. At the conclusion of its run, The Inheritance will have played 48 previews and 138 regular performances.