By Mary Damiano
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…
This is not your father’s Gilligan’s Island, unless dear old dad did drag.
Those lovable stranded castaways from the iconic 1960s’ TV show are back in the hilarious romp, Gilligan’s Fire Island, now playing for two more weekends at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.
Written by Jamie Morris, who also appears in dual roles as both Thurston and Lovey Howell, Gilligan’s Fire Island is both a loving tribute and gay reboot. The result plays just like a lost episode of the show: The castaways are thrown into a tizzy when a mysterious stranger from the future somehow winds up on the island possessing a device with the power to get them rescued.
In this case, that stranger is narcissistic, social media-obsessed reality star Cody, (Kyle Garcia) who is on a ferry making his first trip to Fire Island. After dissing an onboard performance by a drag queen, Cody gets knocked out. Cut to that familiar island, brought to life in full tropical splendor by Michael McClain, and those familiar castaways, who discover Cody unconscious. Just about every cliché from the TV show is played out to perfection over the course of the play
The thing that makes Gilligan’s Fire Island work so well is that the TV show characters play it relatively straight, meaning that except for them being vaguely aware that they all look exactly the same as they did in 1964 when the series began, despite being stranded on the island for more than 50 years, they are simply the characters as we remember them.
All of this could have gone horribly wrong in so many ways. But Morris is skillful preserving the integrity of the show while injecting it with a great big shot of modern sensibility.
Garcia has the job of creating the only original character for the bulk of the show, and, as Cody, he takes the stereotypical, self-absorbed D-List celebrity to new heights—and new lows—meaning he’s really good at being really annoying, and in this case, that’s a good thing.
The rest of the cast is tasked with both embodying the characters we love, while bringing a little something extra to fit the premise. They all succeed beautifully and together create a tight ensemble.
David Tracy is petite, pig-tailed Mary Ann, and he captures the farm girl’s voice and can-do attitude. Morris gets huge laughs as the Howells—his quick costume changes often have hilarious results. Ben Prayz is the Professor, and from the looks of Prayz, the Professor has spent his time on the island working out his brawn as well as his brain. Scott Travis, as the Skipper, fits the bill both physically and with his bumbling good nature. Mike Westrich is the perfect Gilligan, and while he doesn’t get as much stage time as the other characters, he makes every moment count by channeling the little buddy we all remember.
But Trevor Peringer, who plays Ginger, steals the show. Peringer’s height really fills out the movie star’s many slinky evening gowns, and he has Ginger’s breathless, whispery voice and deer-in-the-headlights befuddlement down pat. His timing is also spot-on, and he knows how to wring every last laugh out of each moment.
If you want a laugh-out-loud evening at the theatre, Gilligan’s Fire Island is not to be missed.
Gilligan’s Fire Island runs through August 14 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale. For tickets and more information, visit EmpireStage.com.