Jon Ginn's Reviews > Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

Having Our Say by Emily Mann
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's review
Sep 21, 09

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Read in September, 2009

At the risk of belittling the power of Mann's adaptation of the Delany Sister's "Having Our Say," I have to say that the play smacks of a certain Forrest Gump sentimentality. I mean, come on - "They REALLY surprised their aging mother with a birthday visit from Eleanor Roosevelt?" However, I found myself quickly shelving this rash judgement when I considered: holy crap, these were REAL people that lived these incomparably eventful lives. When this is digested, the rest speaks for itself.

On the surface the play seems deceptively simple to produce. Two elderly black women, "inviting" the audience as guests to join them during their annual birthday dinner for their deceased father, simply sharing anecdotes from their LONG lives (101 & 103 years). However, the women's stories are heavily laden with historical significance (from Reconstruction through Jim Crow to contemporary ruminations about whether America "will ever see a black President") and emotional weight. In short, this play's got a HUGE heart.

Since the form of "Having Our Say" is so simple, I sense that the success of this play is largely dependent on the degree to which the two actresses are engaging storytellers and--perhaps even more importantly--the ease with which the women can relate to each other as over 100-year-old sisters, friends, etc.

While the play calls for a common contemporary theatrical trope--a slideshow, which accompanies the sisters' review of photo album pictures--tech-wise, "Having Our Say" is incredibly unassuming. This lack of "theatrical" ostentation is perhaps one of the play's best selling points; the stories are so unbelievably captivating, little more is needed than two actresses and an audience to communicate the richness of the Delany Sisters' biographies.

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