Penned by playwright Jane Chambers, LAST SUMMER AT BLUEFISH COVE marks a landmark in lesbian history, a heartfelt play bringing friendship, laughter, love, and hope to a group of well-rounded, three-dimensional queer women which transcends stereotypes and preconceptions. First produced off-Broadway in 1980, LAST SUMMER AT BLUEFISH COVE soon made its way to Los Angeles in 1981, where it ran for over two years at the Fountain Theatre, winning multiple awards for Jean Smart as best actress, the ensemble cast, and the production team. Almost 40 years have passed since that time, and the Fountain Theatre is bringing back the iconic play for 2023 audiences. Directed by Hannah Wolf with an all-female cast, the Fountain Theatre returns to 1974 and the gang at Bluefish Cove.
Fountain Theatre’s Outdoor Stage presents LAST SUMMER AT BLUEFISH COVE – Photo courtesy of the Fountain Theatre
The time is 1974, and the place is Bluefish Cove, a remote oceanfront corner of Long Island. The small town has become a lesbian enclave and safe haven for a group of queer women who return each summer to share its beauty and acceptance. Lil Zalinski (Ann Sonneville) is angling for bluefish in the ocean waters when a newcomer wanders by taking in the sun and sand. Lil is instantly intrigued, since a stranger in their midst is unusual; besides, Eva Margolis (Lindsay LaVanchy) is friendly and very pretty. Since Lil is currently single, she immediately invites Eva to a party in her cabin that evening – not realizing that Eva is completely unaware that all the summer vacationers at Bluefish Cove are gay, while she is decidedly straight. When Lil does realize that Eva – just going through a divorce from her husband of 12 years and at loose ends – is not a lesbian, she attempts to dissuade the naïve visitor from attending the party – to no avail.
Stasha Surdyke and Stephanie Pardi – Photo by Ken Sawyer Photography
When Lil’s friends find out that Eva is joining them for the evening, they panic and finally decide to pretend that they are straight. This is especially important for Kitty Cochrane (Sarah Scott Davis), an in-the-closet physician who recently achieved fame and fortune through “The Sexual Imperative,” a best-selling book she has written, a book which Eva read and found life-changing. But the best-laid plans often fail, and Eva, much to her embarrassment, soon realizes that all the women at the party for queer. What to do, especially since she finds Lil attractive and her friends impressive?
Sarah Scott Davis and Ann Sonneville – Photo by Ken Sawyer Photography
Skillfully helmed by Wolf, the poignant tale has several surprises in store for the audience. Wolf is gifted with a talented ensemble cast, each who plumbs the depths of her character with compassion and honesty, to bring the story to life. Kudos to the entire cast, including Allison Husko, Tamika Katon-Donegal, Noelle Messier, Stephanie Pardi, Stasha Surdyke, and Ellen D. Williams. These actors really know how to pull a tear or a chuckle from the involved audience.
Lindsay LaVanchy and Ellen D. Williams – Photo by Ken Sawyer Photography
Congratulations are also in order for the production team, who create the ideal Bluefish Cove on the Fountain Theatre’s outdoor stage, a setting which is beyond perfect. One can almost hear the ocean breakers crashing on the shore. Desma Murphy’s scenic design, Halei Parker’s costume design, Andrea Allmond’s sound, RS Buck’s lighting, and the contributions of the balance of the team enhance the production to an amazing extent. For anyone harboring residual COVID concerns, this is the safest place to enjoy theater at the moment. And let’s not forget about the headsets provided by theater staff from World of Sound. Nowhere else in Los Angeles has the sound been so ideal, providing each nuance of sound to perfection – and the headphones are supremely comfortable, to boot. LAST SUMMER AT BLUEFISH COVE is highly recommended as a well-written, superbly directed and performed production which cannot fail to entertain. It is also thought-provoking as it studies the meaning of friendship, humanity, love, and mortality through the lens of these fascinating women. This is definitely a not-to-be-missed production.
Noelle Messier and Ann Sonneville – Photo by Ken Sawyer Photography
LAST SUMMER AT BLUEFISH COVE runs through August 27, 2023, with performances at 7 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets range from $25 to $45 (seniors $35; students $25; Pay-What-You-Want subject to availability on Mondays). For information and reservations, call 323-663-1525 or go online.