Recommended: The Language Archive

Aston Rep closes their 15th and final season with Julia Cho's The Language Archive, a quirky comic drama about communication, its future and its failings.

Your Chicago Guide’s tickets for two to the press viewing of The Language Archive courtesy of Aston Rep Theatre Company.

Recommended: The Language Archive 2
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

AstonRep Theatre Company is pleased to conclude it 15th and final season with The Language Archive, Julia Cho’s insightful play about language and love. Directed by Company member Dana Anderson, the play is currently on stage through May 28, 2023 at The Edge Off-Broadway Theatre. The cast includes Company members Aja Alcazar, Sean William Kelly and Erin O’Brien, with Jorge Salas and Génesis Sánchez.

Recommended: The Language Archive 3
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

A quirky comic drama about communication – its potential and its limits – this romantic parable for our times features a linguist at a loss for words, especially the vocabulary of the heart. Balanced delightfully between affection and adversity, it is the whimsical, life-affirming chronicle of a brilliant scientist who fights to preserve the dying languages of far-flung cultures, only to neglect the promise and passion of his own. The Language Archive is the winner of the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Playwrighting.

Recommended: The Language Archive 4
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

Director Dana Anderson states: “As AstonRep’s last production, this play is a special send-off about connecting with others on a level that goes beyond just words. It is my hope that the themes of this show amplify and reflect the legacy of our company, built on lasting friendships and the desire to express our truest selves.”

Recommended: The Language Archive 5
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

Looking to brush up your Esperanto? Make sure to grab a ticket for The Language Archive. Julia Cho offers theatergoers a rare chance to acquire a phrase or two of that little-used international tongue.The brief lesson comes courtesy of George, the scholar of dead or dying languages whose love troubles are the focus of this sweet-tempered, but whimsy-ridden comedy. At the top of the second act George invites us to join in as he imparts a few useful phrases in Esperanto.

“Mi estas amita,” he says.

“Mi estas amita,” we repeat. Translation: “I have been loved.”

Recommended: The Language Archive 6
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

The play’s central irony is that George, the linguist, the overseer of the language archive, the speaker of multiple tongues, can’t find the right words to serve his purposes at the most crucial moments of his life.  And when he makes his final, most urgent plea to his wife Mary to return to him so that they can preserve the unique language of their marriage, her response is crushing: “I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.  I have never understood what you were trying to say.”  

George is a man consumed with preserving and documenting the dying languages of far-flung cultures. Closer to home, though, language is failing him. He doesn’t know what to say to his wife, Mary, to keep her from leaving him, and he doesn’t recognize the deep feelings that his lab assistant, Emma, has for him.

Recommended: The Language Archive 7
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

The relationships in this play leave you questioning borders. Not spatially, but emotionally. Each character develops and intertwines with other characters in ways that leave you wondering if you understood anything about the characters in the first place. Julia Cho says: “Labels are the way we make the world convenient.” In an interview conducted with the Juilliard Journal, she emphasized her desire to complicate labels. This idea rings true in The Language Archive.

Recommended: The Language Archive 8
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

The cast plays with what the audience believes will happen. On each turn they highlight the expected, and then veer off down another street. The main characters – George, Mary, Emma, Alta, Resten, the baker, and the creator of Esperanto L.L. Zamenhof – seem to all be connected. This would make sense, as Julia Cho mentioned in her article with The Juilliard Journal that her interest in theatre sparked after seeing Six Degrees of Separation at Lincoln Center when she was 14. This interest in people’s connections is evident throughout the play, as characters meet and divide at a rapid rate, seemingly connected and intertwined.

Recommended: The Language Archive 9
Production photo by Paul Goyette.

The Language Archive is playing through May 28, 2023 at Edge-Off Broadway Theatre, 1133 W. Catalpa Ave, in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.

Tickets are now on sale at or by calling the box office at (773) 828-9129.