Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Daphne's Dive
Signature Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Change Agent

Jyline Carranza and Rayanne Gonzales
Photo by Christopher Mueller
Daphne's Dive, the play by Quiara Alegría Hudes now in the ARK Theatre at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, is just what audiences need after two years of COVID-19 isolation: a play about disparate people finding common ground inside a small Philadelphia bar. While some of the subject matter is disturbing, the overall mood is sweet-natured, and director Paige Hernandez has molded her seven actors into a family with its emotional highs and lows, subtleties and outbursts.

While Daphne (Rayanne Gonzales), owner of the bar, is the spiritual heart of the play, her adopted daughter Ruby (Jyline Carranza) propels the action through her reminiscences. While the characters never visibly age, the scope of the 100-minute play without intermission encompasses roughly two decades.

As Daphne provides abandoned young Ruby with emotional and physical support, the girl finds several possible role models: Acosta (James Whelan), once an artist and rabble-rouser, now a businessman with political dreams; Pablo (Jonathan Atkinson), who turns actual trash into found pieces of art; Rey (Jefferson A. Russell), a biker; Inez (Yesenia Iglesias), Acosta's wife and Daphne's more conventional sister; and, most important, Jenn (Quynh-My Luu), a somewhat exhibitionist activist, resplendent in Moyenda Kulemeka's wildest costumes.

Rather than having a defined plot, Daphne's Dive closely examines discrete moments in time as if under a microscope. Everyone has secrets, everyone tries to advise the others, and each person has to decide how to act and when to make amends.

Gonzales shines as a woman who keeps on going because she has to, offering her bar as a place to celebrate victories and mourn losses. Carranza and Luu serve as lightning rods when they appear, but the other actors are just as accomplished if less showy.

Scenic designer Meghan Raham has created a suitably grimy set that includes not only a well-stocked bar but logos of Philadelphia sports teams, Pennsylvania license plates dating back to the 1970s, and a CD jukebox. John D. Alexander's lighting design serves to sharpen the focus on one performer or another as required.

Daphne's Dive runs through March 20, 2022, at the Signature Theatre, ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington VA. For tickets and information, please call 703-820-9771 or visit

By Quiara Alegría Hudes
Directed by Paige Hernandez

Daphne: Rayanne Gonzales
Inez: Yesenia Iglesias
Acosta: James Whelan
Pablo: Jonathan Atkinson
Rey: Jefferson A. Russell
Jenn: Quynh-My Luu
Ruby: Jyline Carranza