The Language Archive

I walked to Neely Auditorium in heavy rain to watch The Language Archive. Three hours later, I stepped out of the auditorium, thinking the play was worth every hard minute it took to walk to see it.

This VU Theatre play, written by Julia Cho, depicts a linguist, his wife trying to leave him, his colleague who loves him, and a couple speaking a rare language he wants to record. When a character realizes love, the audience will see the happiness as a result. However, the play explores other emotions too: sadness follows as the linguist’s colleague is unable to express her true feelings to him since he immerses himself in sorrow after his beloved wife leaves him.

The Language Archive goes beyond the discussion of joy and melancholy when the wife says the following to an old stranger attempting to commit suicide—“Sometimes you can feel so sad, and it begins to feel like happiness. And you can be so happy that it starts to feel like grief.” Right before the beginning of the play, I did not understand the message behind this line printed on the program. As the performer said that, I suddenly grasped its meaning: delight and unhappiness are not independent from each other. When one of them reaches the summit, it has to decline—even the smallest loss of the peaked emotion could generate its opposite feeling.

The Language Archive also delves into the power of language. When the wife leaves, the protagonist is too sad to utter a word. Therefore, the scene conveys a moment when language can fail us, especially when the atmosphere is vulnerable. Additionally, the couple is the only two speakers of their language. As the linguist notes, “Language can die just as animals become extinct. If you two do not speak your language and I cannot record it, it dies.”

The two messages of the play that stuck with me are this—language can sometimes become powerless and the interplay of emotions is insightful. The Language Archive was an enlightening kickoff for my VU Theatre experience. Value our languages. Savor the bittersweet moments in life. Go to VU Theatre to enjoy this performance and many others throughout the semester!