Oakland revisits drama that played a key role in gay and lesbian theater

‘Last Summer at Bluefish Cove’



“Last Summer at Bluefish Cove” broke ground when it premiered in 1980, as the first quality mainstream play to deal with lesbian relationships in a realistic way.

Written by Jane Chambers, it takes place at a lesbian beach colony in the late ’70s. It follows the relationships of the group members amid the era’s less accepting societal atmosphere.

The Oakland Center for the Arts will close its season with a three-weekend production of “Bluefish Cove,” which features an eight-woman cast directed by Chris Fidram.

“What drew me to this play is that it provides a slice of life few people get to see,” said Fidram. “Its characters are very funny and very honestly written. They fish, they drink, they fight, and they sometimes make foolish mistakes. But these are not tragic, self-loathing women. They accept who they are, and they’re in love with life.”

The play is about seven women who vacation each year at the same beach getaway. What makes this summer different is that one member of the group is suffering from cancer.

Into this mix comes a heterosexual woman who recently left her husband. She checks into the resort not knowing that it caters to lesbians who want to keep it discreet.

“The play is set in the late 1970s, so there’s an unavoidable sense of nostalgia about that,” said Fidram. “As out and proud as these women are, there’s still fear that a heterosexual presence at the cove could jeopardize their privacy and possibly their careers.”

They decide to pretend to be straight around the visitor — which proves difficult.

The Oakland’s cast includes Laura Phillips, Terri Mac-Skimming, Haggy Hageman, Kris Harrington, Geri Dewitt, Haley Otto, Kate Starling and Brittiani Ketcham.

The playwright handles the characters with respect and sensitivity, focusing on the universal human emotions.

“My hope is that audiences will draw their own messages,” said Fidram, who called the play intelligent, funny and sexy.

Stage manager is Jenna Cintavey, with the lighting and set — which includes real sand — by Ellen Licitra and Jim Canacci.

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