Ivy (Betty Vaughn Sweat) and Clayborn (Ken Stutely) banter while playing a game of checkers in a scene from Theatre Albany’s production of “Stories About the Old Days.” (Staff photo: Jim Hendricks)
Theatre Albany 'Stories About the Old Days' Checkers scene
Betty Vaughn Sweat and Ken Stutely perform a scene from Theatre Albany's production of Bill Harris' "Stories About the Old Days." Directed by Mark Costello, performances are at 8 p.m. Feb. 7-8 and 13-15, and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and 16. The theater is located at 514 Pine Ave. Box office is (229) 439-7141.
Theatre Albany: 'Stories About the Old Days': A Crisis of Faith
Betty Vaugn Sweat and Ken Stutely star in "Stories About the Old Days," a play by Bill Harris set in a soon-to-close church in Detroit in the 1970s. Theatre Albany is presenting the production at 8 p.m. Feb. 7-8 and 13-15, and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and 16. The theater is located at 514 Pine Ave. Box office is (229) 439-7141.
ALBANY — Two people with little in common except emotional pain meet by chance in a decaying church where one is searching the other is hiding in Theatre Albany’s upcoming production, “Stories About the Old Days.”
Clayborn, played by Ken Stutely, has become a recluse in the movie theater turned church, vowing to never leave its confines after feeling the world has rejected him. He’s surprised one day to find his solitude interrupted by Ivy, portrayed by Betty Vaughn Sweat, one of the last remaining members of the church and one who is hiding her own great pain.
“They each have some personal pain in their life, but they don’t know that (about each other) at first,” Theatre Albany Director Mark Costello said following Friday night’s rehearsal. “They’re not really adversarial, but cautious, testing each other as to who they are.
“He’s a former blue singer on the circuit. Now, he’s kind of questioning God based on what’s happened in his life. He’s ended up at this church as a custodian to find an answer … or just to give up life.”
WHAT: “Stories About the Old Days”
WHO: Theatre Albany
CAST: Betty Vaughn Sweat and Ken Stutely
DIRECTOR: Mark Costello
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Feb. 13-15; 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 16
WHERE: Theatre Albany, 514 Pine Ave.
TICKETS: $20, adults; $15, seniors; $10, students
BOX OFFICE: (229) 439-7141 WEBSITE: www.theatrealbany...>
The church itself is in the process of closing down, losing most of its members because of its location in a badly deteriorating section of Detroit in the 1970s, the period in which Bill Harris’ play is set.
The pair reminisce about how the area — and to a degree, their lives — once were, back in the days when the neighborhood was thriving with stores and activities. They also observe the second-class status that African-Americans had in their younger days, and how that affected their lives personally and professionally.
“As the play develops, they sort of have a bond because they do both share the fact that they’re both dealing with their belief and the hurt in their life,” Costello said.
The play has its lighter moments as well. There are times where the pair banter and take verbal jabs at each other.
“It’s funny, too,” Costello said. “There are charming, wonderful scenes where they tease and poke at each other.”
One activity they engage in as their friendship develops is checkers. Ivy is a retiree from an electrical plant, and Clayborn asks her what she did before she went to work there. Ivy retorts that she’ll tell him — if he wins the match. If she wins the game, then the stake is that Clayborn will have to leave the church and go to a baseball game with her. Which introduces another rub.
“She’s an avid Yankees fan,” Costello said. “Of course, he’s a (hometown) Tigers fan.”
Clayborn wins the game, and Ivy opens up about the loss of her daughter. Clayborn talks about his loss of his best friend and they examine the way they reacted to their tragedies.
“It ultimately comes to a nice friendship of two people who have come together and are able to share stories about the old days,” he said. “They’re from a period where they’re able to share certain stories and understand each other. … They’re able to assist each other in coming to terms with their pain.”
The opening curtain for “Stories About the Old Days” is 8 p.m. Friday, followed by performances at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Show times for the second week are 8 p.m. Feb. 13-15 and 2:30 p.m. Fe. 16. Ticket prices are $20, adults; $15, senior citizens; $10, students. The theater is located at 514 Pine Ave. The phone number for the box office is (229) 431-7141.