Having Our Say

With Paula Cale pretending to be Gilda Radner for the Philadelphia Theatre Company, H. Michael Walls pretending to be Willi Unsoeld at the Arden, and Will Stutts pretending (this time) to be Frank Lloyd Wright at the Walnut Studio, you can take your pick of bio-dramas on Philadelphia stages this season. But, if it's anything like its initial run at McCarter Theatre and its subsequent run on Broadway, the one not to miss is Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, Emily Mann's dramatization of Amy Hill Hearth's interviews with the late Sarah Delany (then 103) and Elizabeth Delany (then 101). The Delany sisters saw it all, from their upbringing in a striving middle-class southern African-American Episcopal minister's family, to their long careers (as a teacher and a dentist, respectively) in Harlem, and their equally long retirement to the 'burbs. They lived so long they could remember the time before Jim Crow; and they remained (and Bessie still remains) sharp enough to talk about it, eloquently and engagingly. This is not just a bio-drama, but a schematic portrait of African-American life in the 20th century, the Booker T. Washington/W.E.B. DuBois dialectic personified in two sweet-and-sourpuss sisters. Micki Grant and Lizan Mitchell take on the roles played in the original production by Gloria Foster and Mary Alice when the national tour comes through town at the Annenberg Center next week.

Having Our Say, Dec. 10- 15, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St., 898-6791.

-- Cary M. Mazer