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‘Castaways’: La Jolla Country Day alumni to perform at San Diego International Fringe Festival

Reegan Ray (left) and Terri Park star as Mary Ann and Ginger in "Castaways."
(Courtesy of Liz Coley)

With decades of friendship behind them, a few La Jolla Country Day School alumni have been preparing to perform onstage together for the first time at the upcoming San Diego International Fringe Festival.

Their play, “Castaways,” written and produced by 1979 Country Day graduate Liz Coley, will be performed five times from Friday, June 3, to Wednesday, June 8, in Balboa Park.

The show — its world premiere — is presented by the Torreys Players, named for LJCDS’ mascot, the Torrey, and includes Coley, former LJCDS teacher Will Erickson, LJCDS alumni Reegan Ray, John Tessmer and Lee Monroe, and local actors Terri Park and Michael Rodriguez, who did not attend Country Day.

All currently live in San Diego County, except Coley, who lives in Cincinnati and will fly in for the show.

“Castaways” is an “existential comedy” that imagines characters Mary Ann and Ginger from the 1960s TV show “Gilligan’s Island” in memory care, for people living with forms of dementia, Coley said.

Coley, a fan of the comedy series about seven castaways stranded on an island, wrote the play a few years ago after learning that the actresses who played Mary Ann and Ginger — Dawn Wells and Tina Louise — were the only cast members still living at the time (Wells died in December 2020).

“I thought, ‘What kind of vehicle could bring the two of them back together?’ It’s an homage to those two actresses who are so iconic; they describe the dichotomy between the kinds of women that men liked,” she said.

“Castaways” also weaves in Coley’s experiences with memory care during her father’s “declining days.”

“I had this idea that unites these two elder women who self-identified as Mary Ann and Ginger, whether that was true or not,” Coley said. “That was how they explained to themselves that they were marooned somewhere and isolated and trying to escape.”

She then incorporated ideas from the 1953 play “Waiting for Godot,” about two characters who discuss a third who never arrives.

“There were many similarities between what happens in ‘Waiting for Godot’ and what happens in memory care,” Coley said. “Here comes another day and it’s just the same and we’re still waiting for something.”

The play explores the question “How do you live the new day when you don’t remember what happened yesterday?” she said.

The Torreys Players are an “ad-hoc reunion group put together to produce this play,” Coley said. The group formed in 2019 when Coley applied to the Fringe Festival for the play’s inclusion. The festival was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re finally getting to do it,” Coley said. “It’s a joy for us to be reunited and working together.”

She said attending LJCDS meant experiencing “a real closeness across the grades and with the faculty, and it’s not even like rekindling it [now]. It’s always been there.”

Tessmer, who also runs the La Jolla Theatre Ensemble, said he’s looking forward to the performances. Having the Torreys Players together with their various acting, producing and directing talents is “really special,” he said.

Tessmer said he hopes the Torreys Players and La Jolla Theatre Ensemble will work together in the future, noting that the ensemble has done readings of Coley’s plays.

‘Castaways’

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 3; 4 p.m. Saturday, June 4; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 5; 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 7; and 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 8

Where: Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre, Balboa Park, 2130 Pan American Plaza, San Diego

Cost: $10 (festival passes are available)

Information: sdfringe.org