Review: ‘Gilligan’s Fire Island’ at Dominion Stage

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a cheeky flip, begun with fun by castaways, who do everything but strip.

Gilligan’s Fire Island is a parody, bringing back nostalgic memories of the 1960’s TV show with a tropical paradise, plenty of coconuts, and bamboo décor. The twist on the well-known is the campy take on the story, which is now played by a cast of seven men, all of whom are fabulous. This show is certainly familiar, but twisted in a way to make you spew your coconut rum daiquiri in mid-sip as unrestrained laughter erupts. Dominion Stage has lived up to its slogan, “anything but predictable.”

The production at Theatre on the Run in Arlington, offers a hilarious send-up of one of the most iconic TV shows perennially rerun in syndication. Much of the fun comes from situations that were frequently reprised in the occurring series. The seven castaways with whom we are so enduringly familiar are endearingly played by a cast of six actors, who have captured iconic characteristics and physical nuances of the original actors that the audience clearly recalls from 50 years ago.

Eric Verchot-Ware (Gilligan), Larry Grey (Skipper), and Rob White (Professor). Photo by Matthew Randall.

The witty playwright behind this campy production is Jamie Morris and the clever director is Matthew Randall, both of whom bring a joy and a sense of mischief to the style. The light design by Michael Page offers some splendid moments, the best of which is a lapping water design projected during transitions, which is evocative and beautiful. A shout out needs to be made to Phil Natalini, whose use of multimedia, especially in the opening video, is hilarious, and wonderfully done. The set, designed by David Moretti, uses the small space in Theatre on the Run very creatively. It inventively evokes the lagoon from the TV series with bamboo huts, palm trees, and a sandy beach providing space for the actors to romp; and romp they do.

The only character whom the audience is not familiar with is Cody Tanner, whose backstory sets up the new version for the spoof. Cody is played by Dwayne Allen with zaniness, intense energy, and not a shred of inhibition. His meeting with Gilligan, portrayed as an imaginative loon by Eric Verchot-Ware, occurs after meeting the other deserted island residents. Larry Grey is adorable as the sometimes gruff Skipper, whose concern for his “little buddy” is countered by his frequent need to slap him silly with his hat. Silliness is personified by Jeff Ostendorff, playing both Lovey and her husband Thurston Howell, the third. The Professor reflects the sanest stranded character, and Rob White’s portrayal of the show’s most educated character offers an excellent foil to the zany antics around him.

Alex Lew (Mary Ann) and Patrick M. Doneghy (Ginger). Photo by Matthew Randall.

My favorite portrayals were both played in drag. Alex Lew as Mary Ann, who is fed up with playing second string to Ginger’s sexiness, and serving class to the Howells and the other castaways, is unable to get the Professor to notice her charms. Patrick M. Doneghy, playing Ginger, kills the role, milking every laugh, while staying deeply imbedded in the character. A delight to see.

This is Pride month, ushering in summer, so it must be time for camp. This campy show is for adults who are ready and willing to laugh out loud. So join us here real soon my friends, you’re sure to get a smile, from seven stranded castaways, on Gilligan’s Fire Isle!

Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Gilligan’s Fire Island plays through June 24, 2017, at Dominion Stage performing at Theatre on The Run-3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, in Arlington, VA..For tickets, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.


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