Last Summer at Bluefish Cove

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Last Summer at Bluefish Cove
Written by Jane Chambers
Characters Lil
Dr. Kitty
Date premiered December 22, 1980
Place premiered Actors Playhouse
New York City, New York
Original language English
Genre Drama

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove is a play by Jane Chambers. It is important in lesbian theater history as the first mainstream literary piece of its kind.

It is the story of a dissatisfied straight woman who leaves her husband to spend some quiet time by herself and who unwittingly and naively wanders into the midst of a group of seven lesbians at the beginning of their annual beachside vacation. She falls in love with the charming leading character who, unknown to her, is dying of cancer. 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. 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.

Production history[edit]

Originally produced by The Glines (John Glines), artistic director and Lawrence Lane, managing director, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove opened at the Actors Playhouse, 100 Seventh Avenue South, New York City, December 22, 1980[1] and closed March 1, 1981 after 80 performances.[2] Cast: Jean Smart as 'Lil', Susan Slavin as 'Eva', Janet Sarno as 'Dr. Kitty', Holly Barron as 'Annie', Dulcie Arnold as 'Rita', Lauren Craig as 'Rae', Celia Howard as 'Sue' and Robin Mary Paris as 'Donna'. Other credits include Director: Nyla Lyon, Set Design: Reagan Cook, Lighting Design: Jeffrey Schissler, Costume Design: Giva R. Taylor.[3]

In Judy Miller's 1981 Los Angeles production, Jean Smart reprised the role of 'Lil", also featuring Lee Garlington, Camilla Carr, Nora Heflin and 4 other outstanding actresses. The production opened at the 99-seat Fountain Theater in 1981, running for 2.5 years, 4 nights a week to sold-out audiences. Directed by Hilary Moshereece. Laurie Moore was the production stage manager with lighting by Dana Winkelman. The production, its ensemble and Jean Smart won numerous awards during the run. These include the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Jean Smart for Best Actress, as well as a nomination for Best Ensemble Performance.[4] The production won seven Hollywood Drama-Logue Awards - Production, Direction, Writing (Jane Chambers), Ensemble, Lighting, Sets and Costumes, as well as Robby Awards and Oscar Wilde Awards for all the same 7 categories, and numerous GLAAD awards. The production also received a Certificate of Outstanding Theatre from the City of Los Angeles. Jean Smart was discovered at the LA Production by the casting director for Designing Women, leading to her starring role on that successful TV series.

In 1983 Judy Miller produced Bluefish at the 750-seat Theater on the Square in San Francisco featuring Susan Sullivan as Lil, under Marshall W. Mason's direction, for which it received numerous awards.

The play has been performed for the past 30 years across the globe, in hundreds of college and regional productions, often to sold-out audiences.


Lil- the main character. Lil was a girl scout, and occasionally swears on scout's honor whenever she is lying. It is gradually revealed throughout the play that Lil is suffering from severe cancer, and that this will most likely be her last summer. She has already undergone chemotherapy and had several organs removed, including her ovaries, uterus, and tubes. Because of this, she is faced with her own mortality, and is crushed by her lack of a legacy. Her family disowned her following her coming out. In prior summers, Lil has had affairs with most of the other women in the cove, and has maintained a deep friendship with all them, though never experiences true love, until she meets Eva.

Kitty- Kitty is a feminist writer and former doctor, by the end of the play she decides to reopen her practice. She has not yet come out at the opening of the play and is terrified of what going public would do to her reputation as a writer. She is involved with Rita.

Rita- Kitty's lover and secretary.

Sue- a wealthy blueblood, involved with Donna. She is self-conscious about her age and appearance, and the difference in age between herself and Donna (she is 40 while Donna is only 20).

Donna- involved with Sue. Donna is spoiled, Sue claims that it is her fault. Some of the character remark that Donna is a "gold digger", but their love seems to be mutual.

Rae- Rae is a housewife-type, and embarrassed that she enjoys cooking and cleaning, which is considered anti-feminist by Kitty. Involved with Annie.

Annie- the spunky one, involved with Rae.

Eva- Eva comes to the cove following her divorce with her husband, not aware that it is a lesbian colony. Lil is immediately attracted to her, but not understanding the nature of the cove, passes her off as friendly. Eventually, she begins to identify as a lesbian and begins a relationship with Lil.


Act One starts with Lil and Eva meeting on the coast of the cove. Lil is immediately attracted to Eva, but Eva, not recognizing her flirts, simply assumes she is being friendly. Lil, not realizing that Eva is straight, invites her to a party later that night. Upon Lil realizing that Eva is not a lesbian, she is mortified, and tries to gently uninvite her from the party. But Eva still doesn't take the hints.

Most of the characters are horrified that a straight women is not only attending the party, but living in the cove. Kitty especially is terrified of what how public knowledge of her lesbian identity will do to her career. Lil convinces them to pretend they are all straight, at least for the party. When Eva arrives, they stumble through awkward dialogue until Donna and Sue arrive. Not aware of the misunderstanding, they exclaim that they are lesbians, and that everyone at the cove is a lesbian. All the characters are embarrassed by the situation, with Eva abruptly leaving. Later that night, she returns to Lil and realizes her attraction. They begin their affair, with Lil concealing her cancer from her.

Act Two jumps to midsummer. The severity of Lil's cancer is revealed to the audience as well as Eva, after she collapses suddenly in agonizing pain. She refuses to undergo further chemotherapy, or have any other organs removed, accepting that this is her time. She is crushed that for the first time she feels true love (to Eva), and that her time is so close. Eva promises to spend the rest of Lil's time by her side.

The last scene in the play shows the remaining characters mourning Lil's death. Kitty decides to reopen her practice, Eva plays with the idea of renting Lil's cabin next summer. Of all the characters, Eva grows the most, becoming a strong, independent woman, rather than the scared dependent person she was at the beginning of the play. The last lines of dialogue are meant to emphasize this:

Annie: You need a hand?

Eva: No thanks, Annie, I can make it by myself.


  1. ^ Rich, Frank (1980-12-27). "Theater - 'Bluefish Cove' Explores Summer Love". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  2. ^ "'Bluefish Cove' Draws Applause". New York Times. 1981-03-01. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  3. ^ "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove". Lortel Archives-The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  4. ^ "1980 – 1989 Awards". LA Drama Critics Circle. 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 

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