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"A warm-spirited if loose-jointed new play…Hudes has a supple feel for characterization and a wide-ranging sympathy for life’s waifs and strays…Not all that takes place in 'Daphne’s Dive' strikes me as entirely credible…The play’s episodic structure can make it seem like a series of television episodes plucked from different seasons. But with hosannas being sung over the vaunted brilliance of television these days, to describe a play in such terms isn’t derogatory. It’s more like high praise." Full Review
“Samira Wiley is first seen as a scrawny 11-year-old and is 29 by the end of the play. It’s to Wiley’s unassuming skill that she’s equally convincing as both...Warmly staged by ‘Hamilton’ director Thomas Kail, the show suggests a real sense of community, with people with whom you’d actually want to hang out...Daphne Rubin-Vega gives her best performance in years. Admittedly her character has many of the best lines but Rubin-Vega has a ball with them.” Full Review
“Hudes writes juicy dialogue for these colorful characters...and Rubin-Vega delivers her explosive lines with gusto. Wiley’s wide-eyed Ruby is also a joy to watch as she matures in grace and intelligence. But without a plot or something of consequence at stake, the play slips into the conventional vein of those static ensemble pieces set in diners, barbershops, hair salons, and bars. Not even director Thomas Kail manages to pump some life into that static genre format." Full Review
"Much of Quiara Alegría Hudes' 'Daphne's Dive,' chronicling seventeen years in the lives of the regulars who gather at a cheap North Philadelphia corner bar, may seem familiar. But the writing is warm and inviting and director Thomas Kail's very strong cast makes this new drama worth a visit...Without a continuous plot, 'Daphne's Dive' is more of a portrait of lives realized through a collage of events." Full Review
"Hudes displays a strong feel for her well-drawn characters and their hermetically sealed milieu. But that doesn't prevent the play from feeling both overstuffed and undernourished, its melodramatic plot developments rushing by as if the playwright was checking off a list. And while there are some poignant, well-observed moments, too much of the dialogue feels forced and rambling. The piece has been evocatively staged by Thomas Kail and the performances feel fully lived-in." Full Review
"As much as the ancillary characters help define the community that we follow for 17 years, their sheer multitude makes it difficult to invest in any one journey...We get brief visuals that hint at the characters' inner lives….As Kail demonstrated with 'In the Heights' and 'Hamilton,' community rapport is his specialty, and he builds another convincing example at Signature Theatre…Hudes, Kail, and their accomplished cast have made 'Daphne's Dive' more than the sum of its parts." Full Review
"A slow-burning, vibrantly sketched portrait of a scruffy North Philly booze joint run by love-scarred Daphne. Most bartenders listen to others’ problems, but Daphne’s cheerful reticence about her own demons makes us lean forward. Sweetly centered yet able to project panic and terror in a heartbeat, Aspillaga anchors Hudes’s episodic narrative, which spans 1994 to 2011 and is as much a portrait of a gentrifying community as a splintering group of friends." Full Review
“The structure of ‘Daphne’s Dive’, as directed by 'Hamilton' hotshot Thomas Kail, is unhelpfully looser than in past plays...Here, the characterizations feel a little schematic. These are not stock figures certainly, but not as richly textured as they might be...But if the plotting and characterizations don’t quite prop up the bar, there’s an unassailable heart to Hudes’ work...'Daphne’s Dive' isn’t so much a melting pot as it is the rum punch...It’s worth downing.” Full Review
"'Daphne’s Dive' is at its best when it’s letting the characters have fun–and letting the audience have fun with them...The play itself–although well-acted and largely well-designed—is least successful when it piles on one too many sorrows...The staging was such that, in what felt like half the time, one performer or another was fully blocking my view of the actor speaking. Otherwise, Tommy Kail’s direction can not be faulted. He brings out the best in the actors." Full Review
“It can't be said that Hudes has entirely mastered the chronicle format as, too often, the really good stuff tends to happen offstage...Still, ‘Daphne's Dive’ is never dull, the people are likable...Worth seeing for Samira Wiley alone...It's a remarkable performance...More pleasant than powerful, but it makes for a reasonably lively night out; as theatrical cocktails go, however, it has a few too many ingredients to make a strong impression.” Full Review
"'Daphne’s Dive' is one of those plays that makes you wonder if anyone read it before they decided to produce it. While the characters are the exact ones we need to see more often on the stage, the play itself was a surface offering. This play told me about these people but never let me in. Kind of like a chef who describes the dish she is about to prepare but forgets to bring it to your table. I want to taste the food." Full Review
"The play attempts to make a case for people to fight for their dreams, and how heroic it is merely to survive life’s daily crap, but its messages—if you can call them that—get muddled in characters whose behavior, replete with passionate explosions, appears forced for dramatic effect. Way before the tortuous, intermissionless hour and 40 minutes are up even teetotalers may begin thirsting for the bottles behind the bar in 'Daphne’s Dive.'" Full Review
"Hudes has a fine grasp of the friction created by the social tectonic plates that shift according to the waves of gentrification and governance. Each of these characters is good company — there’s a distant echo here of 'Rent,' and not just because of Rubin-Vega’s welcome presence. It’s all beautifully calibrated under the direction of Thomas Kail...The performances are all of a piece but Wiley is outstanding...She’s an actress you cannot take your eyes off of; she shines." Full Review
"Quiara Alegria Hudes' new drama begins in 1994 and takes place in a North Philly watering hole run by the guarded Daphne. Seventeen years bring dramatic and traumatic changes for the bar owner and her intimates...Working with go-to director Thomas Kail, Hudes serves a group portrait that packs compassion but lacks cohesion." Full Review
“To put a metaphoric spin on her title, she dives into these characters pasts and presents, pain and passions. The result is a believable but hardly a feel-good portrait of an era showing a group of people trying to help each other...Under Mr. Kail's direction, the cast taps into the play's most powerful moments….While an intermission would interrupt the script's flow, that flow would have been improved by tightening the script to lose about ten minutes." Full Review
“We follow the changes in these characters over the years. Unfortunately, most of their stories are not that compelling and Hudes does not take us very deeply into their motivation. If I didn’t already know that the playwright had won a Pulitzer Prize, I would not have guessed it from the present work. The actors are fine, the set is evocative, the costumes are appropriate, the direction is assured, but somehow, for me at least, the payoff was meager.” Full Review
"'Daphne’s Dive' is inhabited by seven people who come to vibrant life, thanks to a superb ensemble cast and the woman putting alternately poetic and fiercely realistic words in their mouths: Quiara Allegria Hudes…Director Thomas Kail lets the piece unfold at its own pace, which may feel a little too leisurely for the show’s first 15 minutes. But the momentum builds...Kail and his crackerjack cast ensure that we always believe that these people are deeply connected to each other." Full Review
“As is typical in Hudes’ plays, there’s a feeling of good will toward the characters...You can perceive she intended the play to be a mother-daughter story...But it’s a relationship that’s not particularly well developed...That sense of wanting something deeper is true of the evening as a whole. Director Thomas Kail keeps things in motion, but mostly they’re accounts of melodramatic events, which typically happen off-stage...The play began to feel like a 'Cheers' episode on steroids.” Full Review
"The lively character assortment is well worth spending time with, and the acting does justice to the author’s take on them and her overall vision. We get to know everyone better as the play moves along...An undercurrent of social consciousness provides purpose as we note how characters wrestle with personal needs and demons. 'Daphne’s Dive' is clearly a talented work well worth a visit." Full Review
"Characters get rich, run for political office, fall in love, get divorced, get hooked on drugs, and die. But almost all of that happens offstage...Which doesn't leave much for the audience to engage with…Under Kail's sympathetic direction, all the actors so fully embody their characters that it's easy to see how much these people care for one another even when they are fighting. The problem is that the play doesn't give us enough to understand how they got that way." Full Review
"A thoughtful ensemble drama about finding home in an unconventional place...Not primarily plot driven, the play serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas...Despite the heavy subject matter at times, there are a lot of laughs to balance it out...Kail has woven together a lovely multilayered production...While the structure of 'Daphne’s Dive' is a often predictable, it is a compassionate chronicle of the rewards of community." Full Review
"What binds these characters together is a love of community, and a shared sense of compassion and responsibility for Ruby...Under the skilled direction of Thomas Kail, the spirited cast wins our hearts. Vanessa Aspillaga is an empathetic Daphne; Gomez and Rubin-Vega play their roles with style and flair. Wiley is especially touching as Ruby, struggling to define herself. 'Daphne’s Dive' pulsates with life, Philly flavor, and an authentic sense of community and caring." Full Review
"Well, they can't all be good. You can't fault the acting or Thomas Kail's direction of 'Daphne's Dive.' There's just not much of a play there, so little that one wonders why the Signature decided to produce this...One wonders how the saloon has survived for the nineteen years of the play's action. Over those nineteen years, the characters don't change except to drink more...The cast is so good that at some moments they almost convince the audience that there's a play there." Full Review
"You’ll rarely hear a theater critic say a show should be longer...But 'Daphne’s Dive' could use a little more length and a lot more exposition...Hudes and director Thomas Kail tackle a big chunk of time in 100 intermissionless minutes. But there are stories that beg to be told, and details that demand to be filled in...Hudes has created a group of characters that most anyone would want to share a drink with. One round just isn’t enough." Full Review
“Heavy themes abound, yet in the 100-minute production, the episodic pace grows a bit wearisome, with a stagnant, though realistic looking set and a plot line with little intrigue. The cast of seven impresses, particularly Wiley...If you’re expecting a variation of ‘Cheers’, this is not the play for you. But, it does present a tender, evocative slice of life that is both humbling and empowering in terms of depicting the power of camaraderie and perseverance, no matter your roots.” Full Review
See it if You like plays about the neighborhood - it reminded me of 1986-2000 in the West Bronx - For me the characters and daily melodrama was real
Don't see it if You want something light or comfortable - this is complicated and could upset or offend
See it if This was a good show but could have been so much better. You will like it but will want more. It really nice how they age the young girl
Don't see it if you want fireworks. The whole play takes place in a bar over about 20 years.
See it if a complex portrait of an immigrant family chasing the American Dream and local politics over the past three decades is of interest.
Don't see it if You are lazy about thinking about how the current political environment is really a past and present experience too many are still living.
See it if if you have the patience to wait till the last scene which puts everything into its peoper place
Don't see it if you do not have the patience to see characters being build one trait at a time.
See it if you want to see a fairly short show about eccentric characters with some pathos.
Don't see it if you want a plot that makes sense or character development that feels genuine. The people and their behavior feel contrived.
See it if Interesting characters who are well-acted and brought to life; good design elements
Don't see it if Ultimately, the play unfolds slowly and doesn't break any new ground. Entertaining enough while you watch, but nothing memorable or lasting
See it if Your background includes Philly. Lots of specific references. Family can mean lots of things.
Don't see it if You expect a fully developed story. The characters don't advance much as the years pass. Sisters who disappoint each other have best scene.
See it if you want to catch a brilliant performance served by Vanessa Aspillaga. The rest of the cast is great, too, but Aspillaga...wow.
Don't see it if you need your plays to unfold along a singular line of action toward a cogent conclusion, and not a more elliptical/evocative structure
See it if Handsome set, earnest cast (Samira Wiley especially effective) but the play didn't coalesce for me. A series of vignettes & feels long.
Don't see it if If you can get a cheap seat between now and June 12 (run ends), go: support theater, young playwrights & Signature. Otherwise, don't.
See it if You want a beautiful, emotional drama about life, pain & finding comfort in others. Samira Wiley is excellent.
Don't see it if If you prefer shows that are more plot-heavy. This play is more driven by character and relationships than events.
See it if you want a play that tackles real-world issues and explores communities of color. See it for a strong performance from Samira Wiley.
Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with themes of abuse, violence, sexuality and alcoholism.
See it if you enjoy small plays about big ideas. It took a while to get into it, but once I did, I found it absorbing.
Don't see it if you like a lot of action in your plays. It's very talky, but appropriately so.