The Language Archive
While this comedy about what non-communication can do has a solid story line and a good idea behind it, it never manages to engage its audience and for that reason the play was[for me at any rate] an unfocused and unsatisfying evening.The script was almost totally lacking in humor and together with an uncertain production made for an unfocused and unsatisfying eveninng.
I loved this play. Its moving and intelligent--its truly a theatrical experience that you will not forget.
This is the best play written in Esperanto. Its not all in Esperanto, but there is more Esperanto in it than any other play youre ever likely to see.
The Language Archive treads familiar ground in its explorations of language and the consequences of miscommunications between men and women ? but it does so in such a delightful, original manner that it makes the whole endeavor more than worthwhile. The basic story line is a simple one: George Matt Letscher is a professional linguist who speaks a dozen languagesf; yet he is unable to communicate effectively with his wife Mary Heidi Schreck. Nor is she any more able to communicate effectively with him. George is cool and abstract, grieving more over the death of a language than the death of a human being. Mary, on the other hand, bursts into tears at the slightest provocation and is taken to attempting to communicate with George through aphorisms which she writes on scraps of paper, conceals about the house, and then denies having written. It comes as no surprise to the audience when Mary walks out of the marriage. There are several sub-plots. One centers on Emma Betty Gilpin, George?s associate at the archive who has been in love with him for years, but who has been unable to communicate her feelings to him. A second relates to a suicidal baker John Horton with whom Mary swaps roles. And a third relates to Emma?s meeting with Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof John Horton, the true inventor of Esperanto. But the most important of the play?s sub-plots revolves around Alta Jayne Houdyshell and Resten John Horton, an elderly couple from some unnamed Eastern European region who are the only remaining speakers of the Elloway language left on Earth. George is eager to transcribe their conversations before they die, lest their language die with them but, having transported them from their native land to his archive, he is suddenly confronted with another communications problem: Alta and Resten are angry with one another and, when they are angry, they refuse to communicate in Elloway but only speak English. And why are they so angry with one another? For a host of reasons including the fact that Resten has refused to eat the food that Alta has so lovingly prepared for him. Apparently, in introducing this conflict over food, the playwright has focused on a traditional form of male-female interpersonal communication: women manifest their devotion by proffering food to their partners and men express theirs through their gracious acceptance of it. A bit one-sided, perhaps, but surely with a modicum of evolutionary truth to it. At one point, Altas and Restens mutual animosity rises to such a pitch that they impose irrevocable shunning spells on one another ? vowing never to communicate with each other again. If the spells are not reversed and, as it turns out, the last Elloway shaman capable of reversing such spells died years ago, they appear destined never to speak to one another again ? which would completely thwart George?s aim at preserving their language for posterity. So these are the intertwined linguistic questions requiring resolution. Will George find the words to win Mary back? Will Mary find the means to express her feelings to George in a way he will understand? Will Emma finally communicate her feelings to George? Will Alta and Resten resolve their differences and speak to one another again in their native Elloway? Ironically, you are likely to discover that the actual resolution of those issues will be less important to you than the insights you?ll derive from interpreting the play?s themes. Consider: when Mary first told John she was leaving him, she entreated him to say something ? clearly seeking an emotional, ideally tear-laden, response from him. But John, a cool, abstract, dispassionate sort, did not weep nor even avow his unconditional love for Mary; the best he could muster why to tell her not to leave. So does that mean that it was John?s fault that the marriage ended? But why should the choice of specific words be so important? And why should Mary get a pass on her idiosyncratic written messages, irrational behavior and the fact that it was, after all, she who left the marriage, not he. Finally, when John presents Mary with a mixed tape expressing ?I love you? in every language he knows, why is that not enough? So is it really Mary?s fault after all? Matt Letscher, Heidi Schreck and Betty Gilpin all performed admirably and John Horton who, in addition to playing the part of Resten took on the additional roles of L.L. Zamenhof and the suicidal baker, performed all of his roles superbly. But the highest praise must be reserved for Jayne Houdyshell who virtually stole the show in her roles as Alta and as Emma?s Esperanto teacher. Her performances alone are worth the price of admission. You can read an expanded version of this review and my reviews of several other Broadway and Off Broadway plays on my blog www.aseatontheaisle.blogspot.com.
I went to see the play witout much expectations and came out extremely happy. The acting was amazing and play is well written. The whole play went quite smoothly and there was no dragging moment. Love it!
I suppose as a moral essay for it doesnt matter what language you use, it is what you say that matters, this is a slightly long lesson in the subject. The acting is excellent but the obvious in the plot is missed so many times giving the excuse to prolong the action that it does become a little drawn-out.. I think it could have been edited down to a shorter show without an intermission and lost little of the impact.
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