The Language Archive plays at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, through December 19th.
October 19, 2010
Linguistic lore lights quirky ‘Language Archive’
By JENNIFER FARRAR
NEW YORK – If you’ve ever felt dumbstruck when you wanted to say something really important to somebody you cared about, you’ll be able to relate to many characters in Julia Cho’s quirky new play, “The Language Archive.
This thoughtful, whimsical comedy, about love, language, communication problems and bread-making, opened Sunday night off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre.
Despite waxing eloquent about his love of language in general and especially Esperanto — an artificial, internationally-based language — linguist George (Matt Letscher) finds he can’t produce any genuinely emotional words for his wife, Mary, (Heidi Schreck). Yet he’s heartbroken when she decides to leave him for that very reason.
George could seem cold, unable as he is to even mourn the loss of the family dog, Cookie. But Letscher manages to make George brisk yet likable at first, and more appealing as the play progresses, giving him an uptight demeanor while conveying George’s genuine unhappiness at his inability to find the right words to reconnect with Mary.
Schreck is expressive and sweetly despairing as Mary, who weeps constantly around the house but cheers herself up by musing on the close relationship between happiness and grief.
Typical of the multitude of communication challenges and surreal touches on display by Cho, Mary writes her husband poetic little notes that make no sense to him, hides them in odd places, and insists she didn’t write them when George finds them. Cho’s dialogue soars at times, especially in poignant soliloquies to the audience by Mary and George. Ironically, they can be quite expressive separately, just not together.
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