On an attractive but overpowering shadow box set by Neil Patel that is chock full of collectible memorabilia for “The Language Archive” now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre as part of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s roster of new productions, there are five competent actors who seem to be in search of a play.
You will be too in this metaphorical mishap directed by Mark Brokaw and written by Julia Cho. A play that might be better off shelved among the many other items archived.
Thanks to Mr. Patel, at least you’ll have something to look at while you while away the two hours visiting with George (Matt Letscher) a man of many languages who just can’t seem to come up with the right words to tell his sad and prone to crying wife Mary (Heidi Schreck – who leaves him cryptic notes) how he feels and so she leaves him with his tape recorder and his also prone to crying assistant Emma (Betty Gilpin) who is in love with said savior of ancient tongues and just can’t find the words to…well, we’ve already been there.
George has imported a foreign couple who are the last ones to speak something I think called Elloway – a language of love. Alta (the irresistible Jayne Houdyshell) and her husband Resten (John Horton) bicker from the onset in English – the angry language. If not for this couple the evening might be a total loss. They are humorous and give some feeling and heart to the otherwise cold and bizarre goings on. Their love is real in any language.
At a train station Mary with her small suitcase – obviously she isn’t going very far and likes to travel light – meets up with a man who is about to commit suicide and who holds a mysterious package. Cliffhanger. End of Act I.
We meet up with Mary in Act II where she has gone back to her previous love. Not George, but baking and now runs her own bakery. We also get an audience participation language lesson. And Ms. Houdyshell doubles as an Esperanto language tutor to Emma so that she can tell George of her love for him. How this all works out doesn’t really matter and “The Language Archive” might well have been spoken entirely in Esperanto for all the meaning it attempts to convey but doesn’t. What an unfortunate and annoying waste of resources.
www.roundabouttheatre.org Through Dec. 19th. Photo: Joan Marcus