On best behavior

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove

By Jane Chambers
Directed by Peter Flint
Woman Seeking...
48 W. 21st St. (841-0326)
Equity showcase (closes May 9)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

It was only a generation ago that gay-themed plays first started garnering acclaim and wider audiences, yet many of those groundbreaking works already seem dated. 1976's Last Summer at Bluefish Cove centers on a close-knit group of lesbians who have been ostracized or abandoned by their families and whose careers are jeopardized by coming out. Lesbians and gay men can expect greater tolerance today, but they also might contend that until homophobia is obliterated, plays like Bluefish Cove remain timely. Beyond its gay-pride mantra, the play offers some well-chosen words about romance, commitment, and self-determination that anyone can relate to. It's a tender story about the joys of friendship, love, nature and independence, and Woman Seeking... gave it an earnest and loving treatment.

The cast included the four actresses who founded the theater company (Chelsea Silverman, Christine Mosere, Annie McGovern, and Ange Berneau), plus four other company members (Sonja Stuart, Melinda Tanner, Ana Jacome, and Rhonda Ayers). Stuart portrays Eva, who rents a cabin at Bluefish Cove for the summer without knowing it is populated exclusively by lesbians. Eva ended up at the Cove after packing the car one day and driving away from her repressive marriage of 12 years. By the time she realizes this is not going to be the place to meet a new man, her feelings for Lil (Ms. Silverman), a summer resident of the Cove, have already been stirred. But even after the women get involved, there's still something Eva doesn't know: Lil has cancer.

Focusing on two hot-button issues-sex and death-the script contains several pointed remarks about all the issues facing the characters: from finally finding the love of one's life, to trying to reconcile personal behavior and feminist dogma, to acknowledging one's mistakes made in the name of love. Yet some things in the play-the death of Eva's son, for instance-are underdeveloped. Stronger direction would also have amplified the drama in certain scenes. More than once, an actress stood with her arms folded across her chest or sat on a barstool at an emotional moment that called for a gesture or movement.

Indeed, the actresses' affability and rapport surpassed the emotional resonance of their performances. They were best at capturing their characters' best qualities-with Silverman, that would be Lil's free spirit, while Mosere was a dutiful and affectionate best friend, Ayers supremely loyal to and protective of her lover/employer, and Jacome still a diligent housewife even though she left her husband years ago.

Kimo James designed a good set: part beach (with rocks and reeds), part beach house (with casual furniture). Some technical effects were clunky: the orange lightbulb that was supposed to be the flames of a campfire was clearly visible to the audience, and the women let their hair and clothing get too close to the "fire." In addition, the few seconds' delay between each act-ending blackout and the music that followed disrupted the music's impact. For heightened poignancy, the play should have ended with "You're My Everything," which is mentioned in a memorable conversation between Lil and Eva.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Adrienne Onofri