George is a very smart man. He's a linguist, speaks countless languages and specializes in preserving dying ones. He's on the verge of making a great professional breakthrough.
Alas, however, in playwright Julia Cho's The Language Archive (a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner) about to have its regional premiere at Stages Repertory Theatre, George can't figure out how to talk with his wife Mary and she decides now is the time to walk out on him.
As soon as Stages' Producing Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin handed her the script, longtime Stages favorite Sally Edmundson said she knew she wanted to direct the comedic, poignant, sometimes heartbreaking, story.
"I've been threatening to jump off this cliff for 20 years," actress Edmundson says about making her directorial debut. "What this play really asks is, is it possible to find another human being who plugs into the unspoken parts of us, the broken parts, who enhances the good, the potential we have."
Edmundson has always been interested in languages, she says. "My first degree is in French," adding that she also speaks Italian and Spanish. "I do love linguistics and I love how language reflects and colors our culture and how we view the world."
But this isn't just an exercise in linguistics. she says. "This play is about intimacy." While George is bright and very analytical, Edmundson says, his wife Mary is more grounded than intellectual. "Their tragedy is that they love each other but they never communicate. It shows how assumptions are made that limit access to intimacy."
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A young lab assistant, Emma, gradually realizes that she loves George ("He's clueless," Edmundson says). There's also a couple of seniors -- Alta and Resten -- who are the last two people alive speaking what had been thought to be a lost language, Edmundson says.
Edmundson last appeared at Stages in The Unexpected Man and in The Language Archives she's reunited with actor James Belcher, who plays one part of the quarreling senior couple.
Audience members who think they know exactly where the show is going, will be surprised, Edmundson says. Just when you have it figured out, you don't.
The Language Archives runs February 6-March 3 at the Yeager Theater at Stages, 3201 Allen Parkway. Call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $21-$45.