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Opposite Ways of 'Having Our Say'

May 28, 1999|JANA J. MONJI

Amentha Dymally gives a luminous, understated performance in "Having Our Say," at the International City Theatre, the story of two elderly African American women, Sadie and Bessie Delany.

Emily Mann's stage adaptation of the best-selling memoir bearing the same name is a problematic portrayal of two centenarian "maiden ladies," sisters. As visitors to Sean McMullen's homey set, the audience listens to the Delanys' reminiscences covering Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, civil rights and women's movements of the 1960s and beyond. Stringing together incidents and memories may imitate life, but it doesn't provide a focal point for dramatic tension. Mann's scripting reveals little but the obvious.

Dymally, who was the understudy in a production of this play three years ago at the Mark Taper Forum, brings a sense of humble elegance to this role in sharp contrast to Audrey Morgan, who blusters and bellows in a superficial interpretation of the younger, more radical Bessie. They don't really seem like sisters at all, lacking the comfortable intimacy of longtime confidants.

Despite Caryn Morse Desai's sensitive and warmly humorous direction and Dymally's quiet glow, the limitations of the script prevent us from really knowing these two exceptional women.

*

* "Having Our Say," International City Theatre, Long Beach City College, Clark Street and Harvey Way, Long Beach. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends June 13. $22. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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