Big Idea Theatre’s current production of The Language Archive is extraordinary.
The story follows George, a linguist, whose words fail him when his wife says she is leaving. That day, the last two speakers of Elloway come to the language archive to work with George and his assistant, Emma. The story follows these characters as they try to find the words to say what is in each of their hearts.
The premise sounds a little cheesy, but the script by Julia Cho is so wonderful that I asked for a copy. The stories these characters share are beautiful, and Cho’s wording is fantastic. It feels like the playwright put a lot of thought into every phrase that went into her pages.
There are some touching, subtle, quiet and lovely moments nestled in among the play’s laughs.
And those thought-out phrases and beautiful moments are delivered by a fantastic cast.
The highlight of the show is George, played by Eason Donner (who was recently seen in Big Idea’s production of The Submission). Donner portrays the character so genuinely. I was really moved when he spoke about languages and words and what they mean to him.
Jessa Berkey plays Mary, George’s wife, with a wide-eyed innocence. Emma, George’s assistant played by Elizabeth Holzman, is adorable. She got audible “awws” from Friday night’s audience throughout the show.
Shaleen Schmutzer-Smith and Scott Divine play Alta and Resten, the last two speakers of the fictional Elloway language. Their tender moments shine as brightly as their comedic ones.
Michael O’Sullivan and Larri Russell round out the cast in a variety of supporting roles, and both do a good job in each of their parts.
Benjamin T. Ismail’s direction feel natural, and lets the actors shine in this fantastic production.
The production values at Big Idea are always high. The sets, costumes, lighting, and projections are always good. But the projections in this show, designed by Ryan “Harpo” Harbert, were outstanding. Translations appear on the stage during exchanges in Elloway or Esperanto, and words cascade over the walls and floor during some of the scenes. It’s just beautiful.
In short, this show is not to be missed. I really loved this production, and can’t wait to see what Big Idea has coming up for us next.
“The Language Archive” plays through August 23. More information and tickets can be found HERE.