The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

In this two-act play, a group of lesbians who meet every summer at an isolated beach resort, Bluefish Cove, find their vacation unsettled by two events. First is the fact that Lil, a popular woman in the group of friends, is suffering from terminal cancer. Second is the arrival of Eva Margolis, a heterosexual woman who has just left her husband and is unaware that the cabin she has rented is intended for lesbians who value their privacy.

As act 1 opens, Lil stands on the beach in front of a one-room rustic cabin. She talks aloud to a bluefish she is trying to catch with bait and tackle, and her amusing monologue captures the attention of Eva, who approaches and listens, then strikes up a conversation. Lil is at once attracted to Eva, but Eva does not know that Lil is a lesbian, and the opening dialogue is a comedy of misunderstanding before Lil realizes Eva is heterosexual. By this time, Lil has already invited Eva to a party that night at her cabin, and though she warns Eva that she “might feel out of place,” Eva insists on coming, believing that it will be a party of married couples.

Later, Kitty, Rita, Annie, and Rae prepare for the party and discuss the possible threat of Eva’s arrival to their happy summer. Kitty, a medical doctor and recent author of a self-help book titled The Female Sexual Imperative, is alarmed that Eva will reveal to the outside world that Kitty is a lesbian, a fact which could make her lose her credibility and ruin her writing career. The others reassure her that everything will be fine. Annie steps outside to speak with Lil, who is cleaning the fish she has caught, and their conversation reveals that Lil has devoted little commitment to her past relationships, while Annie has been happily “married” to Rae for nine years. When Eva arrives for the party, everyone is nervous, but Eva at once says that...

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Last Summer in Bluefish Cove Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Chambers’s set design suggests both the organic comforts of an outdoor area that is not so wild as to be dangerous and the intimacy of a sheltered cove that is “near the city” yet wholly apart from it. Lil’s cabin, which appears upstage, features “a flight of weathered wooden steps to a one-room rustic cabin,” while in the foreground, “a jutting rock rears its head above the sea, speckled with seaweed and colonies of clutching mussels.” The effect is one of privacy, safety, and natural beauty, and Lil speculates that the following summer, after she is dead, her friends will say to the stranger who has taken this cabin, “Beautiful sunset, huh? Lil loved that view. She thought God put that rock down there for her. When she stood on it with the surf pounding against it, spraying salt so high that she could taste it on her lips, she was Queen of Bluefish Cove.”

As in many dramas, the scenes are separated by blackouts, usually between the beach and the cabin above. This allows a fluid movement between simultaneous events, such as the conversation between Sue and Donna as they walk to the party while it is in progress. Chambers makes little distinction, however, between conversations held outside on the beach or up in the cabin. The lesbian friends feel natural and at home whether they are inside or out, and the openness of the cabin suggests the lack of walls between them. The setting is attractive enough to draw the audience in at once so that viewers feel part of the “family” as they interact onstage.

Last Summer in Bluefish Cove Bibliography

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Brown, Janet. Taking Center Stage: Feminism in Contemporary U.S. Drama. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Curb, Rosemary. Amazon All Stars: Thirteen Lesbian Plays, with Essays and Interviews. New York: Applause, 1996.

Helbing, Terry. Introduction to Gay and Lesbian Plays Today. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1993.

Landau, Penny M. “Jane Chambers: In Memoriam.” Women and Performance 1, no. 2 (Winter, 1984): 55-57.

Wolcott, John R., and Michael L. Quinn. Staging Diversity: Plays and Practice in American Theater. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt, 1992.