Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Gilligan's Fire Island
The, ahem, "story" is about a group of men and women (all played by males, as per Morris' oeuvre) who get shipwrecked on an unnamed island after their boat to Fire Island capsizes. That's about it for the story.
Morris has concentrated on the characters and this is where he shines. Morris plays both the Howells: His Lovey bears a striking resemblance to Lily Tomlin's Ernestine in a tacky blonde wig, but he is very, very funny with his patronizing barbs to "her" fellow inhabitants. As Mr. Howell, Morris is the proverbial "dirty old man" whose lexicon is infested with double-entendres. That creates a double-edged sword for the character. There is so much gay sexual innuendo on the part of several characters that it, ultimately, becomes quite tiresome.
The other performers run the gamut from woefully inept to terrific. Mike Westrich is Gilligan and he manages to channel Bob Denver in what is, alas, a painfully underwritten role. Westrich is one of the best young performers in the area. His character's name is in the title and it is disappointing how little we see of him, as he is one of the three terrific performers. David Tracy, a Morris "veteran" plays MaryAnn with tongue most definitely not in cheek, which makes every one of his lines land as they should. There is no winking at the audience nor is there any written cast breaking up for MaryAnn. Please be careful of this, Mr. Morris, because it is not amusing, it only lowers the bar for the production.
The star of the play is, hands down, Trevor Peringer's Ginger (the Tina Louise role). Extremely tall, in multiple sheaths and shod in bejeweled Crawford "come you know what me" pumps, Peringer has the breathiness and the "dumb like a fox" role down pat. He can get uproarious reactions from the sold out crowd with just a syllable. He is the ferry that saves the project from sailing off into the darkest waters.
Speaking of sheaths, I wanted to credit the costume designer who has done a wonderful jobbut none is listed. Technically, the lighting and sound by Ginger Reiter is first class. Accolades, as always, to Michael McLain for his fun and authentic set on the Empire's problematic stage.
I will admit that I found certain parts amusing, but the show would work better if key roles were recast. That said, I am sure that all will improve with time and if you are looking for an evening where you can have a drink and a hearty laugh or two, head over to the Empire Stage.
Gilligan's Fire Island plays through August 14th, 2016, at the Empire Stage, 1140 No. Flagler Drive, Ft. Lauderdale. For tickets and other information, visit empirestage.com or call 954-678-1496.