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New York Theater

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove

Fashion of the '70s is in again, and it's part of the enjoyment of Jane Chambers' seminal play about lesbians vacationing together. It's been a while since anyone used the term "the movement" about women's rights, and perhaps even longer since a naïve straight girl could utter the line "Are you one of those swinging singles I read about?," as Eva (Kate Foley) does to Lil (Karyn Plonsky) in the play's first scene. Chambers' play, first produced in 1980, was written in 1976. Director Pamela Scott plays on the audience's nostalgia and/or curiosity via sound designer David Zipperer's choice of evocative pop music and costume designer Karen Ann Ledger's artful use of harem pants and swimsuits.

The play follows seven friends, plus a straight divorcée who has unknowingly rented a house at the lesbian retreat Bluefish Cove, as they enjoy the summer and deal with the recurring cancer of tough "alley cat" Lil. Present are vain former doctor Kitty (dignified Summer Crockett Moore), who writes books about female sexuality and is terrified of being outed; Rita, her secretary-lover (Meghan Pickrell); old-money Sue (husky-voiced Susan Montez), who keeps gold-digging brat Donna (pretty and funny Emily Sproch); former housewife Rae (Darcy Reed); and spunky Annie, Rae's lover (Sharon Maguire).

It isn't easy keeping all of them straight (as it were) and Chambers helpfully has the characters explain themselves to the new girl. That may be realistic but it isn't dramatic. The cast often resorts to mugging and indicating, rather than allowing the banter to find its own gentle level. Maguire, however, is totally engaging and brings out the best in the rest, too. Lil and Eva's infatuation is giddy fun.

We often get ahead of the play. It isn't always subtle but it's certainly a landmark, and it's fascinating to see how much -- and how little -- social milieus have changed.

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