Reviewed by Sarah Boslaugh
Soundstage Productions enriches the St. Louis theatre community by bringing us staged readings of rarely performed works. Their current production, Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays,
directed by Dave Houghton, is a perfect choice for Soundstage because while no one would place it among Miller's major plays (in fact, it often seems more like sketches from the playwright's notebook than a finished work), it remains interesting for the light it sheds on the playwright and his working processes.
A Memory of Two Mondays
premiered on Broadway in September 1955 on a double bill with the one-act version of Miller's A View from the essay writer
. It was not well received, when it was noticed at all: one critic even failed to mention A Memory of Two Mondays
in his review, which concentrated entirely on the second half of the bill. After the premiere it seems to have fallen off the map, except for a 1974 television version and a Broadway revival in 1976 on a double bill with Tennessee Williams Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton.
However, Miller retained a fondness for this work, writing in the preface to the Random House editions of his collected plays that "nothing in this book was written with greater love, and for myself I love nothing printed here better than this play." For my money, any play which gets that kind of endorsement by one of America's major playwright's deserves a hearing.
I wonder if Jerry Seinfeld ever read A Memory of Two Mondays
, which predated his more successful show about nothing by about fifty years. What is portrayed on stage are two slices of daily life at an automotive supply warehouse during the Depression: one on a Monday in the summer, the other on a Monday in the winter. One character's wife dies in the first half, and that character dies in the second half. A drunk gets on the wagon and his coworkers conclude they liked him better as a lush. One young man with promise finds the means to pursue his dreams, while another falls into habits which will keep him trapped on life's treadmill. A new car is bought, then sold; a romance sparks and is broken off. Any of these events could have been developed dramatically, but Miller did not take that path: instead, they are swallowed up by the sameness of the characters' lives and their aimless chatter about baseball and the weather.
I suspect Miller was fond of this work because it recalls a time in his youth when all possibilities seemed open to him and when he had begun to experience that strange duality common among writers, who become detached observers of even their own lives. Miller's representative in A Memory of Two Mondays
is Bert, a young man working at the warehouse while saving money to go to college. He's the one who doesn't fit in among the warehouse workers, the one who can't understand how anyone could bear a life in which each day, and each year, is pretty much like the last. What he doesn't yet realize is that for most people, life is not some wonderful dream of the future but the reality of what you live every day, and it doesn't change that much, so you just do the best you can to get on with it.
The Soundstage cast is mixed in their abilities and expertise, and Miller hasn't always given them much to work with: many of the characters are little more than thinly-sketched ethnic and sexual stereotypes. Still, outstanding characterizations are achieved by Jeanne Trevor as Agnes, Matthew Kemmerer as Kenneth, Jason Meyers as Bert and Bob Harvey as Tom. Lighting by Jesse Russell was simple and effective, as were projections of the factory in the changing seasons, and musical choices by Carmen Larimore-Russell. Other cast members are Tom Moore as Raymond, Heather Schmidt as Patricia, Randy Stinebaker as Gus, Archie Coleman as Jim, Dave Bornholdt as Larry, and Dave Weis and Chuck Colson in multiple roles.
A Memory of Two Mondays
continues through November 17  at the Regional Arts Commission at 6128 Delmar. Ticket information is available from 314-968-8070 or
. Next up at Soundstage Productions will be The Rimers of Eldridge
by Lanford Wilson, which will run March 13 through 22, 2008.