Tim Tai, Senior Photographer

The first show of the Dramat’s spring season — “Delicacy of a Puffin Heart” — premieres this week at the University Theatre.

Set in a 1990s San Francisco apartment, “Delicacy of a Puffin Heart” tells the story of an immigrant lesbian couple — Ana Sofia and Meryl — as they navigate in-vitro fertilization and Meryl’s bipolar disorder. Decades later, their daughter Robyn lives in the same apartment with her best friend Hadley. A story of loss, family and friendship, “Delicacy of a Puffin Heart” will be performed Thursday, Feb. 15 through Saturday, Feb. 17.

“In directing the show, it’s allowed me to reflect on relationships in my life,” said director Alicia Shen ’26. “In the script, each scene is titled with like the New York Times ‘36 Questions to Fall in Love.’ … When we were going to rehearse a certain scene, we would talk with a cast and have everyone answered the question first, and then we get into rehearsal. It inherently … forced us to reflect on our own relationships.”

The show has been in rehearsal since late November. 

The play consists of a five-person cast. With such a small cast size, the team said they worked to create a homey and intimate atmosphere.

The stage is set to look like the inside of an apartment. Complete with paintings on the walls, scattered clothes and a usable refrigerator, the set has a cozy feel to it.

The stage and other technical elements are set up to make the audience feel like they are peeking into the life of the characters. Sound effects of running shower water and phone ringtones, props like real fruit and photographs of the actors, consistent costume changes and the lighting of the desk lamp all add to the intimate atmosphere of the play. 

Technicians use lighting to try and differentiate between the two timelines. At some points in the show, characters from the past and from the present are on stage at the same time. The only person who seems to have some idea of the tangle of time going on is Robyn, played by Jessica Le ’27.

“What will help [audiences] understand the play more is that memory sometimes doesn’t make sense, sometimes you interpret memory in your own way,” Le said. “I feel like this play is something inside Robyn’s memory. The play is up to what the audience is interpreting on their own.”

The show is filled with drama and intricately developed characters. From Ana Sofia’s motherhood journey to Robyn’s cancer, each character faces individual battles. Actors commit fully to their roles, carrying the audience along with this emotional story. 

Millie Liao ’27 plays Meryl, one of Robyn’s mothers, who struggles with bipolar disorder. 

“It’s really important to honor how this disorder affects people’s lives in a way that’s respectful,” Liao said. “It’s going to be difficult for someone who doesn’t have BPD to fully embody that. I’ve been trying to be mindful, spending time researching and I talked a little bit to a friend who has BPD. I think it’s important to make sure you’re dancing in between this line of asking people with BPD to tell their experience, but also imagining what it means, that BPD in this context. Not every person with bipolar disorder is going to have the exact same experiences.”

This play is produced in collaboration with the Asian American Collective of Theatermakers — AACT — at Yale. 

Directors Alastair Rao ’26 and Shen, both of whom are on the board of the AACT, invited members of the AACT to be a part of this show after it was selected by the Dramat for the spring semester. 

Creating a space for Asian theatermakers is a central theme of the play.

“I hope that Asian people feel emboldened to get involved in theatre at Yale, because there are so few of them in the theatre scene here,” Rao said. “I hope that they see our play and see themselves represented on stage and in the program and want to get involved.”

The playwright of the show — Stefani Kuo ’17 DRA ’24 — is currently a second-year playwriting student at the David Geffen School of Drama.

Luciana Varkevisser covers theater and performances. She is a freshman in Saybrook College planning on majoring in history and psychology.