Last Summer at Bluefish Cove is important in theater history as the first mainstream, high quality script featuring well crafted gay characters in a compelling love story revealing universal truths within the lesbian experience.
The central character is a vibrant, self-confident woman named Lil Zalinski, who is spending the summer alone at a beach cottage in a small enclave that has been a lesbian haven for 30 years. Also at the cove are her dearest friends, three couples, including a couple of former lovers. There’s Earth mother Rae and her partner, Annie, an acclaimed sculptor who is Lil’s best friend; Kitty Cochrane, a doctor turned best-selling author of feminist books, and her partner-secretary, Rita; and rich dowager Sue with her girl-toy, Donna.
Into their company arrives Eva Margolis, a straight woman who mistakenly rents a cottage in their community. The first act is an often hilarious series of scenes in which the lesbian characters try to hide their orientation from the outsider. Each character fears being “outed,” but Kitty has the most to lose because her credibility as feminist scholar would be completely undermined. But things are complicated by a growing friendship between Eva and Lil, who feels a protective instinct toward the newcomer.
It turns out that Eva has just left her husband, partly inspired by Kitty’s best selling feminist manifesto, The Female Sexual Imperative. As Eva begins to fit into the community, Lil, a self-described “alley cat,” finds herself really in love for the first time, and Eva blossoms under the wiser woman’s wings. Their midsummer idyll is interrupted by a return of Lil’s cancer, and the possibility of death brings a wonderful urgency to the relationship. This play is not so much about women in love as it is about love and friendship itself, and the many varieties that exist
The friendships, the laughter, the love, the fears of being outed, the difficulties of being gay and how it affects relationships with family, children, parents and careers, the demonstrations of what the painful price could be for a gay life 30 years ago in everyday America, had never before been told with such respect. Chambers’ comedic dialogue, sensitivity to human nature and tender treatment of her characters help the play transcend preconceptions and show the universality of these women’s journeys, whether straight or gay.