The company of women
Last Summer at Bluefish Cove
Before writing about the Truckee Meadows Community College production of Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, I did a little online research about the play, author Jane Chambers, and the places where it’s been performed. There wasn’t much out there. But one fact emerged quickly: it’s usually billed first as a “lesbian” show, which is unfair, because it’s really just about friendship.
Chambers wrote this play in 1980, but even in its 25th year, its issues remain relevant. The TMCC production, directed by Paul Aberasturi, features several strong performances that enable those issues to hit home.
Last Summer at Bluefish Cove centers on Lil (Giana DeGeiso). Lil and six of her closest friends are residents each summer at Bluefish Cove, a lesbian enclave on the Long Island coast. As the play opens, Lil, a passionate fisher, stands on a rock, flirting with the fish to coax them to her line. Along comes Eva (Kari Ramos), who hears Lil and strikes up a conversation with this potential new friend. Eva has just left her husband, George, and has fled to Bluefish Cove to get her thoughts together. Unbeknownst to her or anyone else at the time, she is the Cove’s one and only straight resident.
Although Lil is in shock that Eva “got in” at Bluefish Cove, it’s clear that Eva is simply looking for a friend in her time of need. Lil invites her to a party with other Cove residents—and neglects to tell her what kind of neighborhood she’s moved into. Meanwhile, Lil’s friends are in complete shock that a heterosexual has invaded their territory. They include Dr. Kitty Cochran (Evonne Kezois), a prominent gynecologist and author of The Female Sexual Imperative; Kitty’s assistant/partner Rita (Christine Haber); Lil’s best friend from college, Annie (Bernadette Garcia); Annie’s partner Rae (Karen Donathan); and finally, Sue (Deborah Braat), an older, wealthy woman whose ditzy blond “girl-toy,” Donna (Kristen Micharlson), is happy to take advantage of Sue’s checkbook while verbally and emotionally abusing her. The women are a quirky group with little in common except their love for each other and their concern for Lil, who is not only terminally ill but falling deeply for Eva.
This production has a lot going for it. First, Giana DeGeiso’s performance is very strong; expect big things from her. Her talent for subtle comedic timing makes her fun to watch, and the chemistry between Lil and Eva is unmistakable. Second, the cast members portray these fictional friends in a way that’s affectionate and loving, without the awkwardness there otherwise might be about playing lesbians. The set design is fantastic. And the play hits such emotional highs and lows that it will stick with you after you leave the theater.
However, while the affection appeared mostly genuine, it often seemed that in order to be believable as lesbians, especially with Kitty and Rita, the actors felt it important to constantly paw at each other in a way that was inauthentic and over the top. And whether it was due to the age difference or the inability of the actors to carry it off, the relationship between Sue and Donna was hard to buy. But it was only a small part of the story.
Those things aside, the show’s themes of friendship, understanding and the never-ending search for love and companionship should ring true for men or women, gay or straight.