Swimming with Lesbians
Grab your life preserver; stop by the bar on the Lezzo Deck for a ‘sapphotini;’ and welcome aboard The Celesbian, “the world’s oldest lesbian cruise line because we have the world’s oldest lesbians on board.” We may think we are at The Marsh Berkeley; but under the command of the comic antics of veteran author and performer Marga Gomez, we are about to launch into a cruising experience like no other – her fourteenth solo play, Swimming with Lesbians.
We are going to be guided through this multi-day experience of puns and pranks by Isabelle, one of several unique (and the italics is purposeful) women Marga Gomez brings to life before us. Isabelle is taking us through chapter by chapter, her memoir from her first-ever lesbian cruise (with projected illustrations by David Hawkins), where she is more than ready for “my first ever lesbian affair.” Isabelle is recovering from a lacrosse head injury – one of several times when the mention of ‘lacrosse’ elicits howls of laughter from this packed audience of mostly women of all ages – leaving her with a “foreign accent syndrome” that results in an “inconsistent, transatlantic accent.” Her mixture of British/Australian/Irish (and maybe others) pronunciations belies her hometown is actually Chico.
As Isabelle roams the decks, we meet Pru Perez, the ship’s entertainment director whose duties include calling Morning Bingo and leading the wet-t-shirt relay at the pool, where the winning team (will it be the Gertrude Beer Steins?) is the one that crosses the finish line and bares it all, depositing their tees at Pru’s feet. Isabel meets Pru near the life-size butter (vegan, of course) statue of K.D. Lang, just in time for Isabelle to eye with lust hunky Captain Debby. The deliciously butch Captain wows all the ladies with her thumbs held in pants pockets; her quivering and pooched bottom lip, and her ability to give the latest latitude and longitude in a voice that sends all the lonely hearts swooning and hoping for a seat at the evening’s captain’s table.
Southern-accented Babs and her new friend met in the ship’s slow, low-lit elevator, Jan, are slated for the captain’s table – that is, if they recover from their many cocktails and the encounter with that Latinx Entertainment Director, Pru. Pru, it turns out, talks as much with her hands as her words (which she knows “can weird out some white people) and whose hands seem bound to brush against any nearby breast. They (and of course, we) also will probably encounter along the way the ship’s new astrologer, Aurora, or the ship’s DJ, Dykie Dyke. Pru is doing all she can to avoid running into an unexpected guest on the ship, Arlene, who is the bully who used to pull her pig-tails back in boarding school while annoyingly singing, “Where Is Love” from Oliver.
Scattered throughout Isabelle’s recounting, there are many ‘groaners’ and word-plays – some that seem right out of a Vaudeville show. (“[It happened] in Juno.” “Juno?” “Juno.” “No, I don’t know.”) Audience involvement is frequent, with opportunities to join along in clap-percussion and even sing-along to re-done verses of The Irish Rovers’ ditty, “What Do We Do with a Drunken Sailor.”
As we all know from The Love Boat, there are always intrigues of love to be had on every cruise along with unlikely meetings between past acquaintances and the inevitable storm at sea. On The Celesbian, there is plenty of near X-rated bawdiness – often in terms and enactments that maybe only a lesbian can truly understand and howl in laughter.
And that is one possible precaution for any potential audience member of Marga Gomez’s Swimming with Lesbians: If you are not lesbian or at least not conversant and comfortable with lesbian-infused humor – some very explicitly sexual in nature – this is perhaps not the show for you. There is a boat load of laughs that come pouring out of Marga Gomez’s talented acting and packed-with-fun script, but the guest list may be best filled by those who would also be the ones who would sign up for an Olivia cruise in the Caribbean.
Rating: 3.5 E
Swimming with Lesbians continues in extended production Sundays at 5 p.m. through February 25, 2024, at The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Street, Berkeley. Tickets are available online at http://themarsh.org or two hours prior to showtime at the box office.
Photo Credit: Carmen Veronica