The Wisdom of Age

Centenarian sisters Sadie and Bessie Delany fondly reminisce about their first 100 years in Having Our Say, a delightful though at times tiresome new production by the African-American Performing Arts Community Theatre.

The setting couldn't be more appealing: As the curtain parts, it unveils a modest, lived-in dwelling with a kitchen, living room, dining room, and appropriately, a grandfather clock. Sadie, who at 103 is older than her sister by two years, welcomes us to their home and, as the elderly are wont to do with a captive audience, together they tell us about the "old days" (as my own grandmother calls it) with the warmth and kindness that seems to come naturally with age.

The sisters share anecdotes about their parents, growing up as intelligent African-American children in the Jim Crow South, why they never married and chose to live together, the loss of a number of loved ones, how they've been able to live so long, and much more. Although the makeup doesn't age them quite as much as it should, the performances by Darlene French White (Bessie) and Catherine A. Williams (Sadie) are solid, mostly because they refuse to complain and because they bring a pleasantness and sincerity to their stories.

The real Delany sisters -- both of whom died in the Nineties -- provided their oral histories to New York Times reporter Amy Hill Hearth, who then molded their words into a best-selling book, which was later adapted for the stage. Unfortunately she at times allows the women to get a little too bogged down in mundane details about their family and glosses over bigger social issues such as the civil rights movement and other racial issues. But even if they ramble, it's still more than worthwhile to spend time with these remarkable ladies.

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