Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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 SigTheatre.org.
By Quiara Alegría Hudes