ARLINGTON, VA – Have you ever been to a dive bar? And I don’t mean Cheers. If not, you should enter the world of Daphne’s Dive. In this exciting work, playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes offers us a barstool at a Puerto Rican-centric dive bar on Philly’s seedier side and she has filled it with the most colorful characters this side of San Juan.
There’s Daphne (Rayanne Gonzales), the full-throated, take-no-prisoners owner with a heart of gold and years of hard luck; Jenn (Quynh-My Luu), the political activist who openly admits to a messiah complex though nicely tempered by her adorableness; Rey (Jefferson A. Russell), the leather-clad biker looking for love; Inez (Yesenia Iglesias), married to dapper businessman slash politician, Acosta (Dylan Arredondo), and finding her independence; Pablo (Jonathan Atkinson), the dumpster-diving artist; and Ruby (Jyline Carranza), Daphne’s stepdaughter, who is growing up surrounded by a quirky family of barflies.
Their story begins in the 1990’s and goes through the 2000’s – so a lot of major life changes for all the characters. What keeps it barreling along is how they navigate these curve balls with the help of their tight-knit bar familia. Watching them evolve and interact, alternately challenging and supporting each other through the worst of times and the worst of disagreements, is both heartwarming and fraught. It’s a bird’s eye view into a unique cultural dynamic – one that Hudes invites us to appreciate and understand. As for Hudes’s street cred, she wrote the book for In the Heights so she knows barrio life and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.
Director Paige Hernandez’s friendship with Hudes began at the Kennedy Center with Hudes’s production of Barrio Grrrl! and continued as Hernandez searched for some of Hudes’s lesser-known plays to bring to the attention of Signature audiences. This is exactly the sort of uplifting yet serious diversity that audiences are searching for. Set in the intimate ARK theater, it’s an up-close-and-personal experience putting the audience mere feet from the stage.
The excitement is further enhanced by scenic designer Meghan Raham and lighting designer John D. Alexander who together create a credibly dingy bar decorated with neon bar signs, funky period beer ads, shelves of cheap booze and what appear to be actual working beer taps. Pacifico anyone? Costume design by Moyenda Kulemeka and sound design by Kenny Neal completely transport the audience.
You’ll seat-dance to the hot rhythms of their Latino music, laugh at their drinking games, and marvel at their personal transformations inspired by Jenn’s motto of “Peace, Liberty, Ecology and Democracy”.
This cast is phenomenal! See it!!!
P.S. Sig’s lobby bar has reopened. Plan ahead!
Playing now through March 20th at Signature Theater, 4200 Campbell Avenue (in the Village at Shirlington), Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information visit www.SigTheatre.org or call the box office at 703 820-9771.