Two Plays Tackle Complexities of LGBTQ People’s Lives and Relationships

Scene from “The Inheritance”

Two plays running in the U.S., Bare and The Inheritance, are bringing LGBTQ stories to the stage. The former, which most recently ran in Baltimore, is a rock musical with Off-Broadway origins about students at a co-ed Catholic boarding school wrestling with their sexuality and their faith. The latter is an epic, two-part play currently on Broadway which follows the unraveling relationship between two men, inspired by the E.M. Forster novel Howards End. 

Bare follows in the footsteps of daring coming-of-age musicals like Rent and Spring Awakening, two shows which also featured LGBTQ characters and relationships. Bare traces its earliest version back to 2000, when composer Damon Intrabartolo and writer Jon Hartmere debuted the show in Los Angeles as a pop-opera. It later moved to an Off-Broadway run. It was later re-worked as a rock musical and has been played all over the globe ever since.

The story mainly follows two boys, Peter and Jason, as they and their peers begin to explore their sexuality within the walls of a Catholic boarding school. Peter and Jason fear they will not be accepted by their peers, or by God, because of their feelings for each other. The show subsequently explores the complexity of the crossroads between sexuality, love, faith, and growing up. 

According to Broadway World, Bare is as important now as when it debuted. Artistic Director Sean Elias says LGBTQ people may be more visible today, but they do not necessarily have it easier:

“‘In a ‘post-equality America’, where marriage equality is the law of the land and where LGBTQ youth are more visible than ever, it’s easy to believe that we’re beyond the oppression and bigotry once thought to be prevalent against LGBTQ youth. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the reality. Hate crimes committed against LGBTQ people have seen the most drastic rise in years, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, 92% of LGBTQ youth say they are exposed to negative messaging about being LGBTQ in school.'”

The Inheritance also explores important issues LGBTQ people face, but not ones so concrete as civil rights or HIV/AIDS. Rob Weinert-Kendt writes in America that the issue The Inheritance tackles is as important to a gay audience as it is to a straight one: “the urgent question of whether we can learn to love one another in spite of the way we too often treat each other and relatedly, whether we can love ourselves.”

Written by Matthew Lopez, this sprawling, seven-hour, two-part play follows a couple, Eric and Toby, whose relationship begins to fray. There is infidelity, yes, but it is the symptom rather than the cause. As Weinert-Kendt writes: 

“What begins to tear them apart are outside sexual temptations, yes, but also a divergence in worldviews and ambitions: Eric is looking for a home, for roots, for meaning, while Toby is running from a squalid past toward an ostensibly glittering future.”

So while Toby gets involved with several younger men, Eric befriends Walter, a quiet middle-aged gay man who turned his and his parter’s home into a hospice during the height of the AIDS crisis. The interlinking relationships between gay men portrayed in the play elegiacally connect the contemporary struggle that Eric and Toby face with the long legacy of struggle LGBTQ people have faced.

While Bare recently finished its run in Baltimore, The Inheritance is currently running on Broadway in New York City. These important pieces of LGBTQ theater continue to tell the stories so often missed in American mainstream culture.

Melissa Feito, New Ways Ministry, January 10, 2020

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