Edgemar Center for the Arts production
"Stamos is a playwright who knows her philosophy well enough to make both subject and drama come alive… the journey is challenging and entertaining." -CultureVulture.net
For more complete review, click here.
"Dialectics of the Heart is a smart play. Writer Dale Griffiths Stamos stakes out ambitious ground to cover and engages both the head and the heart... ...Stamos leaves us with hope and our own reflections. This is, after all, a thoughtful play. RECOMMENDED." -Metro LA
For more complete review, click here.
"Written with a compelling blend of philosophy, forbidden romance, and controversy, by Dale Griffiths Stamos, this is a unique and smart script... I enjoyed every emotion packed, sexually tense moment." -The Tolucan Times
For more complete review, click here.
"An interesting look at the politics of modern romance in places of higher learning, where codes have been established to keep teachers from getting chummy with their students… Lawrence is amazingly compelling… Gonzalez fills [his role] with his own more cerebral qualities… Alison Vail Fuller directs with a steady hand." -Back Stage West
"Stamos' play is quite literate… Lawrence gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as a deeply conflicted woman…For those who enjoy a good love story, you will not be disappointed."
"I won't give away the surprise denouement at the very end but I will guarantee you it will make the whole trip more than worthwhile… " -Press Features LTD
"An expert cast, led by Sharon Lawrence…with each passing scene, her personality transforms… At its heart, "Dialectics of the Heart" ably tackles the question, 'How do we know what we know?' " -Daily Breeze
Jan 24, 2006
Dialectics of the Heart by Karen Weinstein
In a world where bare bottoms and bare breasts can be glimpsed on billboards and in family newspapers, and clothing is at its most titillating ever, there is a countervailing PC force afoot on campuses and in workplaces. Long overdue strictures against sexual harassment have been enlarged to forbid consensual relationships between consenting adults in those contexts. Nowhere have the limits been more severe nor the answers more murky than on college campuses. The potential for the abuse of power by older faculty members (generally assumed to be male) preying upon students (assumed to be young females) has transformed the enforcement of sexual harassment regulations into a kind of in locus parentis not seen since the 1950's.
Off campus, these same rules have denied the reality that single professionals with billing requirements of 2000 hours or more per year have little opportunity to meet partners elsewhere. As the powerful have taken advantage of inferiors, many a lasting relationship has also begun as a workplace tryst or a student-teacher romance.
In Dialectics of the Heart, the line between what is the rule and what should be the rule is explored through the teachings of philosophers from Plato to Hegel and played out between Professor Elizabeth Drewer (Sharon Lawrence) — forty years old, beautiful, articulate, obsessive about her career, with the moral concreteness Piaget ascribes to a six year old — and graduate student/teaching assistant 28-year-old Richard Amado (Nicholas Gonzales) — enthusiastic, charismatic, unfettered by boundaries, and drawn to the university to study at her feet.
Three other professors who are more comfortable in realms of gray are the supporting cast. Barbara Biden is an African American, earth mother professor of Social Anthropology so warmly played by Carlease Burke that there is an irresistible impulse to go to her dressing room at curtain and say, "girl, when can we have coffee together?" Philip Monohan (Joel Polis) is a Philosophy Department colleague sanctioned by the faculty committee after Professor Drewer reluctantly testified she had seen him kiss a student. And Marshall Heughins (Peter Husmann) is the beleaguered ex-husband of Drewer, a chemistry professor attracted to her by her mind and ultimately exhausted by her intensity, now married to a less complicated woman.
From her lectern, Elizabeth begins Philosophy 21 — a survey course where she opens her examination of the rationalists with "how do we know what we know?" She is the archetypal lecturing professor, thoroughly informed in her field, articulate to a fault, organized and focused on her goal of imparting her knowledge to the sophomores before her. Richard leads the discussion group, the teaching assistant who gets students fired up. He crosses the line into the familiar or mildly profane, and elicits original thought. Both alternately address the audience as their class and the contrast is bold. Each captivates in his or her own way; either would be the teacher remembered years hence. Stamos is a playwright who knows her philosophy well enough to make both subject and drama come alive.
Elizabeth and Richard's relationship is a dialectic in a dictionary sense: "The contradiction between two conflicting forces viewed as the determining factor in their continuing interaction." Elizabeth's strict reliance on rationalism is articulately, endearingly and enthusiastically attacked by Richard's contention that reason is not enough. She seduced him long distance by her writings before they ever met. Almost like a rambunctious, large, loving puppy he pulls her from her rigid podium into the imperfect real world.
The ending may stray too close to the classic "Girl Meets Boy" format, but the journey is challenging and entertaining. No one's intelligence is insulted and no one can leave the theater without mulling over where the line should be drawn between sexual harassment and relationships between consenting adults.
MetroLA adjunct of NoHO>LA
Jan 31 — Feb 13 2006
Dialectics of the Heart by Jerry L. Jackson
The war between the head and the heart has been ongoing since before we had language to articulate it. Philosophers, poets (and playwrights) have been trying to codify, objectify, reflect and otherwise explore or exploit the battles ever since. The battle has taken center stage in a world premiere at the Edgemar Center in Santa Monica.
Dialectics of the Heart is a smart play. Writer Dale Griffiths Stamos stakes out ambitious ground to cover and engages both the head and the heart. We are immersed in the world of academia, its politics and its ethics. In this ordered landscape of perfect ideas, we have an imperfect love story: professor/student, older woman/younger man.
The central character, a middle-aged professor named Elizabeth, has for most of her life embraced the rigid matrix of philosophy (an ever-evolving attempt to impose an orderly explanation and therefore predictable outcome for the emotional chaos of human interaction). When that matrix crumbles in the face of her discovery of love, the vacuum threatens to destroy her. "Leave me alone." becomes less a plea than a painful acknowledgement of a self-imposed failure to connect.
Director Alison Vail Fuller skillfully plays with the setting of the story. Soliloquies are set as lectures to the audience. It works surprisingly well. One audience member was even moved to answer one of the rhetorical questions. For one "class" an overhead projector (remember those?) washes the entire stage with words representing the ideas of the play.
As Elizabeth, Sharon Lawrence skates a thin line between vulnerability and off-putting frigidity. It's a challenge she's up to. She's surrounded and balanced by a supporting cast who adroitly expand what could've been sit-com archetypes. Carlease Burke as the comic relief best friend, Peter Hussman as the exhausted ex-husband who left for more heart/less head, Joel Polis as the fallen and foreshadowing co-worker, and Nicholas Gonzalez as the callow and potentially inappropriate student/lover evolve into warmly caring human beings that help us pull for Elizabeth to survive herself. Rather than tie a pretty bow of an ending, Stamos leaves us with hope and our own reflections. This is, after all, a thoughtful play. RECOMMENDED
The Tolucan Times
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Nite Lights by Pat Taylor
Dialectics of the Heart
Written with a compelling blend of philosophy, forbidden romance, and controversy, by Dale Griffiths Stamos, this is a unique and smart script. Taking place at an unnamed university, we meet Elizabeth, a philosophy professor. Attractive, organized, single, and a relentless workaholic, her life is guided totally by the rational theories of Plato and Descartes. When she takes on a handsome, freethinking, bright and much younger grad student as her assistant, Richard, who follows the romantic ideas of Rousseau, the sparks between them explode! A heady, wordy script loaded with the concepts and beliefs of history's great philosophers, this is simply a case of finding the delicate balance between heart, mind, emotion and reason...
I enjoyed every emotion packed, sexually tense moment. Under the stylish direction of Alison Vail Fuller, and on a fabulous set by Daniel L. Wheeler, an excellent cast of five offered compellingly skilled portrayals. The two leads, Sharon Lawrence (she was Sylvia Costas Sipowicz on "NYPD Blue") positively shines, as the rigid Queen of Reason, and Nicholas Gonzalez (starred in Showtime's "Resurrection Blvd.") is sizzling as the young idealist who wears his heart on his sleeve. The trio of supporting actors add humanistic dimension and humor to the equation. Carlease Burke is great fun as Elizabeth's friend/coworker, Peter Husmann is solid as her ex-husband, and Joel Polis is quirky as a colorful fellow prof, who has experienced his own student dalliances. Do go see this fine ensemble handle the timely issue of college teacher/student personal relationships. Running through Feb.26 at the Edgemar Center for the Arts.