Sunday, June 5, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: Daphne's Dive

Daphne's Dive
By Quiara Alegría Hudes
Directed by Thomas Kail
Signature Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A group of people gather at Dahne's dive, a little whole in north Philadelphia, where over the course of 18 years become a family. Though the rest of the crew has been together for years, Ruby (Samira Wiley) joins them at age 11 after she jumps from a window to escape a police raid that breaks up her family who are tenants in an apartment above the bar. Found in the trash by artist Pablo (Matt Saldivar), who draws inspiration from objects discarded in the garbage, he brings the girl to Daphne (Vanessa Aspillaga)who eventually adopts her.

With each scene changes there is music by Michel Camilo  and an update from Ruby about how old she is. We follow the group again when she is 15, 20, 25 and 29 and see how their relationships grow and change. Daphne's sister, Inez (Daphne Rubon-Vega) and her husband, Acosta (Carlos Gomez), might live in a more upscale section of town because they have found financial success due to Acosta's hard work, but they are frequent visitors to the bar and important influences in Ruby's life. Later Acosta runs for City Council and eventually his once solid marriage is tested by his infidelity. The sisters, with secrets that haunt them from the past, also work through some difficult times.

Director Thomas Kail (Hamilton) fixes regular customer Rey (Gordon Joseph Weiss) to his chair, for the most part, keeping him always on the fringe of the activity, without being an integral part of it. He is the constant against which all the other live show progress. Political artist Jenn (KK Moggie) provides entertainment and enlists ruby in some of her protests, but never feels fulfilled and makes a decision that forever changes the lives of the bar patrons.

What Are the Highlights?
It's an interesting story, a slice of life with interesting characters. Quiara Alegría Hudes' play is much simpler than Water By the Spoonful, which won her the Pulitzer, but it has heart and commitment to bringing realistic characters to the stage. Families and friends are there in good times and bad, and so it is at Daphne's Dive.

Donyale Werle continues the realism theme with her bar set jutting out into the audience and giving us a 360-degree view of the action (and expert lighting by Betsy Adams focuses us in on what's important). The audience feels as though they are patrons in the bar too and part of this circle of friends.

The actors give excellent performances.

What Are the Lowlights?
A jump back in time at the end of the action seems out of place. Some of the information learned in this scene might have helped us better understand some of the characters. As it is, we feel as though we know them but don't like them very much. Some additional development would help us better understand some of the choices made, especially by Acosta. The 1:40 run time posted ran about 20 minutes long (there is no intermission). Here is one play that needs to extend happy hour to two acts to give Daphne and her crew another round to fully develop.

More information:Daphne's Dive plays through June 12 at The Pershing Square Signature Center 480 West 42nd St., NYC. Tickets are $30-$85:; 212-244-7529

Additional credits: 
Toni-Leslie James (Costume Design), Nevin Steinberg (Sound Design)

-- Homosexuality
-- Homosexual activity
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Suggestive movements

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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