Words are important.
They express love, anger, hurt, compassion, ideas.
But George, the protagonist in Winding Road Theater Ensemble’s production of “The Language Archive,” can’t find them.
It’s ironic, of course: George (Gabriel Nagy) has a deep passion for languages, particularly dying ones. He studies them, caresses them, loves them.
But he can’t tell his long-suffering wife (Leslie J. Miller) how he feels. Worse, he can’t seem to listen to her when she tries to talk to him. The poor woman resorts to writing oblique, unsigned notes, hoping he speaks to her, and hears her. Finally, she flees. He’s deeply hurt but can’t find the words to express it.
Then there is the elderly couple (Peg Peterson and Roger Owen) the linguist wants to study. They are the only two left in the world who speak Elloway. George flies them to his lab to record the language before it dies out, but all they can do is argue. In English. “English is the language of anger,” they explain.
George’s assistant (Seonaid Barngrover) is hobbled by her fear of putting words to her serious crush on George.
So it goes in this sometimes tedious production of the Julia Cho play.
Perhaps the biggest failing is we are never convinced to care about the characters or the situation.
Cho’s script carries some poetic moments, but this production lacks the nuance to make the play any more than a cliché about a linguist who can’t find the words he needs to express his feelings.
There was a flatness to it. One longed to know that, even though he can’t express himself, this linguist has a river of words running underneath. We never sensed that.
There is some serious potential for comedy in this production — and a serious need. But director Susan Arnold opted for toning it down so that what we got were some funny situations without the humor.
Still, there were bright moments: Owen and Peterson, both of whom played a number of roles, brought an energy and focus to the production. When they came on stage as the angry elderly couple, the pace picked up and with it the audience’s attention.
Winding Road hasn’t disappointed very often. But this time, it does.