Review by Brittany Crowell
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Daphne’s friend Wendy wonders humorously as the two of them dance, eat pie, and catch up. Wendy is visiting Daphne, who recently moved with her girlfriend into a remote house in the woods. However, Daphne’s quiet respite is slowly and surreally morphing into a haunted cage, as reality begins to slip away and Daphne finds herself lost within the haunted corners of her mind.
DAPHNE, a new play by Renae Simone Jarrett and directed by Sarah Hughes is running at Lincoln Center’s LCT3 Claire Towe Theater through November 19th. The play is a suspenseful series of vignettes, following Daphne’s experience leaving the metropolitan for the remote, living with a loved one who may not be all they seem, and dealing with the humanness of living within her body and its desires.
Daphne, played softly and carefully by Jasmine Batchelor, starts to realize that something isn’t right. Their house feels haunted: items move when they leave the room and cabinets close on their own accord. Her girlfriend Winona, played by Keilly McQuail with a wonderful balance of venom and sweet disposition, is keeping her caged up like her pet bird (who lives in the corner behind a sheet and is never allowed to see the light); and the woods are really getting to her – like, really starting to take her over, as bark begins to extend around her finger, hand, and arm.
Daphne is deeply imaginative, moving away from reality to find the more human experience within a surrealistic space as characters magically fall through windows, disappear into couches, or climb out from cabinets. The design only highlights the suspense, as the scenes are met with undertones of following footsteps, creaky trees, and windy woods (sound design by Sadah Espii Proctor) and lights (by Stacey Derosier) shift from golden glows to stark whites to shadowy flickers, as we wonder what is real and what are we finding inside the fearful depths of Daphne’s mind. The house itself (set by Maruti Evans) mirrors the dichotomy of the piece, partnering warm tones with sharp edges, and anticipating the call of nature through the leaf-strewn wallpapering.
Daphne is a haunting tale of a love, nature, and the cost that often comes with truly escaping. It haunts in its relatability, and in what it leaves unsaid. Do not expect to find a bow tied around this piece; don’t expect a nice, clean play; but do expect to be goose pimpled, unnerved, and to leave pondering the piece’s humanity, magic, whimsy, and message.
Running through November 19th, this is the perfect season for a theatrical horror play; but beware how it may reach in and take you by the heart.
DAPHNE – by Renae Simone Jarrett; directed by Sarah Hughes.
WITH – Jasmine Batchelor (Daphne); Keilly McQuail (Winona); Jeena Yi (Piper); Naomi Lorrain (Wendy); and Denise Burse (Stranger)
Sets by Maruti sets by Maruti Evans, costumes by Oana Botez, lighting by Stacey Derosier, and sound by Sadah Espii Proctor. Produced by Lincoln Center Theater: Andre Bishop, artistic director; Adam Siegel, managing director; Naomi Grabel, executive director of development and planning; and Evan Cabnet, artistic director of LCT3. Claire Tow Theater (150 W 65th Street); Running through November 19; www.lct.org/shows/daphne/