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Daphne's Dive

From 28 critic and 91 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Disappointing, Ambitious, Resonant

About the show

Signature Theatre kicks off playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes' residency with this world premiere family drama set in a North Philly dive bar. More…

Daphne’s Dive is a cheap corner bar in North Philly where the proprietress and her eclectic group of friends and family meet, talk, bond, and drink. As Daphne’s adopted daughter--who's very different from her quiet and pragmatic mother--grows up, this unconventional family is forced to confront ugly secrets and take a hard look at their lives. Brimming with adversity, love, and hope, this new play is directed by Thomas Kail ('Hamilton').


"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

Broad Street 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

New York Post

“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

The New York Times

"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

Time Out New York

"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

Theater Pizzazz

"'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

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"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

Theatre is Easy

"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

Entertainment Hour Blog

"You gotta love a show where you feel a part of the atmosphere, invited into the culture, all the while moved with the rhythm of the story. That, my friends, is the feeling you feel watching 'Daphne’s Dive'...Kail perfectly masters the pacing of the vignettes, keeping us on our toes...Samira Wiley is the heart, soul and liver of the bar and you simply cannot take your eyes off her...Go on and have a drink at 'Daphne’s Dive' and bring a friend--you’ll have a lot to discuss and reminisce about." 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


“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

Stage Buddy

"Wiley’s performance is intense and passionate...Her performance keeps the audience connected throughout. The rest of ensemble is top-notch as well...The writing explores each character’s story, the struggles and losses, and delves into complicated motivations...With so many conflicts, Hudes does not always delve deeply into each, but the ensemble rises to the challenge...Hudes’ latest work is an unapologetic and brave look at America." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"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

NY Theatre Guide

"Mr. Kail’s direction is seamless and—no surprise— Quiara Alegría Hudes’ writing is wonderful. But much of her sly humor is lost here amidst domestic and political polemics, which makes some of the performances seem forced. Still there is fun to be had in Daphne Rubin-Vega’s sly turn as Inez...However, it’s Samira Wiley’s tender and passionate rendering of Ruby, who goes from 11 to 15 to 20 to 25 to 29—and back again!—that gives this play its heart and meaning." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“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

DC Theatre Scene

"'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

The Guardian (UK)

“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


"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


“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

New York Daily News

"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

Bob's Theater Blog

“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


“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

Motherhood Later

“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

The Hollywood Reporter

"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

Theatre's Leiter Side

"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

Exquisite, Great staging, Great writing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You like beautiful writing, smart staging and careful acting. Beautifully executed!

Don't see it if You only see shows that take place in NYC or only see musicals.

Absorbing, Must see, Profound, Relevant, Great staging

See it if You enjoy seeing the dynamics of a family of origin and choice over 20 year time span

Don't see it if You want light entertainment. Your not able to be open minded about different life styles.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Must see, Riveting

See it if you like real drama that makes t=you laugh and cry while it deals with real life issues

Don't see it if want to escape

Great acting, Great writing, Resonant, Relevant, Excellent ensemble

See it if U want to watch a powerful story about a group of unrelated people who adjust to stages of life challenges over a decade Acting is superb!

Don't see it if You dislike the use of alcohol consumption Have no compassion Think some plays are too much like TV shows - get out more to see live acting!

Powerful, Real, Resonant, Refreshing, Absorbing

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

Also Check out the author's other plays - esp if you get a chance to see a ... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if enjoy a multi-talented the lives of real people

Don't see it if you do not want to hear about the sadness and happiness that engulfs all of us

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy

See it if you like edgy, modern drama.

Don't see it if you only enjoy old style, proscenium shows.

Great acting, Intense, Original, Resonant, Profound

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.

Ambitious, Exquisite, Great acting, Intense, Refreshing

See it if you want to catch a brilliant performance served by Vanessa Aspillaga. The rest of the cast is great, too, but

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

Great writing, Great acting, Engaging

See it if you want some great performances in a well written play.

Don't see it if you want a light comedy.

Absorbing, Great staging, Intense, Resonant

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.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Refreshing

See it if you enjoy family sagas set over 18 years, good acting that keeps characters alive, want to see Pulitzer winner Hudes' newest work

Don't see it if plays set in bars bore you, you are expecting something major or momentous,

Great acting, Intense, Disappointing, Resonant

See it if See this play for its outstanding production design and the wonderful ensemble work of its actors.

Don't see it if That said, the play ultimately underwhelms as the playwright's craft is too obvious in the play's very mannered dialogue and plot points.

Great writing, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You Liked American Airlines last season. Like thoughtful theatre. Like good acting. Appreciate flawed but good writing.

Don't see it if Set=disaster. Created for another space? Major Flaw. Why create a one sided set 4 a play performed two sides. Too big for space. Detracts

Delightful, Great staging, Relevant, Dizzying, Funny

See it if you enjoy small theatre vibe

Don't see it if you expect something big

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if You love great acting, and a compelling script. An interesting and complex show about a diverse environment.

Don't see it if You don't like shows told by vignette or with heavy handed symbolism

Ambitious, Entertaining, Enchanting, Great acting, Refreshing

See it if You need an entertaining night out

Don't see it if o

Great acting, Great writing, Resonant, Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if you want an intimate slice of life dramedy by a fabulous writer

Don't see it if you want light, easy breezy.

Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Very realistic

See it if you enjoy realistic themes and stagings you enjoy good acting you enjoy great production values you enjoy understanding relationship values

Don't see it if you only enjoy comedies

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great cast, Unclear ending

See it if you like stories about an urban modern struggle. Important relevance. Actors all very well cast, but some deliver more strongly than others.

Don't see it if you are looking for a clear or happy ending- this has neither. Loved the show up until the end when it lost me. Would try seeing again.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Resonant

See it if you're interested in character driven conflicts, cultural backdrops, and many themes/details.

Don't see it if you prefer light theater for the sake of entertainment, or violent/gruesome dialogue might disturb you.

Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Great acting

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.

Intense, Resonant, Absorbing, Ambitious

See it if You like serious theater. You like plays that follow characters and settings over a long period of time.

Don't see it if You only like plays that are upbeat and cheerful.

Entertaining, Great staging, Absorbing, Quirky, Uneven

See it if you respond to character-driven plays and enjoy stories than span more than a decade.

Don't see it if want plot more than atmosphere.

Great acting, Thought-provoking

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.

Cast & Creatives (14)