Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre performs edited versions of both for one show.
As with other plays by Miller, they inspire thought, examine what it means to be an American and include dark slices of life.
One would be a heavy dose; two make an intense prescription.
The independent stories about immigrants weren’t popular in America when they were performed in 1955. Although the plays’ subjects are still difficult to grapple with in 2018, there are engaging facets of the nearly two-hour-with-intermission production.
“A Memory of Two Mondays” is a semi-autobiographical reflection of a young lad in a ‘30s parts warehouse in Lower Manhattan. Miller had a similar job before attending the University of Michigan.
The workers vary in their Old World origins, as do their accents. Chatter is the meat of “A Memory” and its plot is mostly glimpses of everyday moments. Little actual work happens in a shop frequented by a cast of 16 who often limp.
“A View from the Bridge” is another memory play with a more defined and gruesome plot. Anna Ryzenga as the daughter, Catherine, Claire Wilcher as the mom, Beatrice, and Kevin Craig, fiercely portraying the father Eddie, stand out as a family that descends into turmoil.
Alek Doeer is the perfect Rodolpho, a flamboyant, blonde immigrant who falls for Catherine. Ryan Adolph smoothly delivers the wise narration of lawyer, Alfieri. The potent cast gives the vicious climax of the tragedy real power.
Director Rob Roznowski magnificently choreographs the continual current of players. Costumes designed by Jenna Light in “A Memory” and Ray Kelley in “View” give everyone an authentic look. Dana White’s lighting adds moods and style.
Lex van Blommestein and Brandon Barker’s somewhat apocalyptic set on the Wharton Center’s Pasant stage changes little for each play. It includes a marvelous partial bridge, overhead Statue of Liberty fragments and adaptable crates that transform into desks, a record player, phone, booth, switchboard station and more.
Each play suffers from a cast too young to play older adults, some inconsistent accent deliveries and moments when dialogue is hard to decipher. Both plays include grim aspects. Despite that, both were moving and memorable.
“Miller Plays” Wednesday, Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m. Pasant Theatre at Wharton Center 750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing www.theatre.msu.edu (517) 355-6690