The magic of words

PUHI — George is a linguist obsessed with saving dying languages, yet he can’t find the right words to save his dying marriage.

That is the irony of “The Language Archive,” a comedy by American playwright Julia Cho, that opens 7 p.m. today at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse.

As audience members descend deeper and deeper in George’s world (played wonderfully by Aaron Martin), new ironies are revealed: George’s assistant, Emma (played by high school new-comer Rowan McGrath) has an unrequited love for the brainy wordsmith. This prompts Emma to learn Esperanto, George’s favorite language, but realizes she can’t describe her feelings for him in any language.

Meanwhile, George’s wife, Mary (Melissa Mojo) is romance starved. George doesn’t understand her sadness. She cries at long distance phone commercials, nature specials and inexplicably breaks down into a pool of tears over a sink of dirty dishes, he tells the audience.

While George is a total dud when communicating with his wife, Mary isn’t much better at explaining her emotions to George. She ends up packing her bags and leaving George to board the next train out of there.

At The Language Archive, walks in Alta (the terrific Delia Valentin) and Resten (the very funny Morgan Liddell). They are the last two people in the world who speak their native tongue of Elloway, except when they arrive at George’s office, they are spewing vile insults at each other in broken English.

He hogged the window seat on the plane. Her cooking is terrible.

The couple’s verbal sparring match brings some of the most memorable quotes of the play.

Alta and Resten speak their native tongue when they are happy, and English when they are mad. After all, Elloway is a poetic language reserved for love, and “English is perfect for saying mean, ugly things.”

“The Language Archive” is charming, funny and, at times, poetic. Chance meetings between characters — a solitary baker, a suicidal train rider and a ghostly linguist — add to the captivating plot of this play.

“I thought this was an extremely interesting play because the question of language and identity is timeless,” said Director Laurel McGraw. “It’s cross-cultural.”

McGraw saw “The Language Archive” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and decided to bring it to Kaua‘i audiences. Growing up in a multilingual household, McGraw said her family spoke bits of French, German and Spanish, she understood how language can connect or alienate each other.

“The Language Archive” teaches us that more often than not, no words can convey the complexity of human emotion. Sometimes, the words we don’t say speak volumes about who we are.

See “The Language Archives” 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays. The play closes on Sept. 11. Tickets are $20/$22 for adults, $18/$20 for seniors and $15/$17 for students and KCP members.

For reservations, visit www.kauaicommunityplayers.org or call 800-838-3006.

• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

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