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THE HEART

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at Edgemar Center for the Arts

The word "dialectic" is defined here as the struggle between opposites, and that couldn't be more the case when über-rigid academic Elizabeth Drewer (Sharon Lawrence) falls hard for her hot-blooded young teaching assistant Richard Amado (Nicholas Gonzalez). Professor Drewer has even testified against a colleague (Joel Polis) who had a similar transgression, making her own situation unbearable for her, especially because her field is philosophy and her daily life is defined by the pragmatic theories of Plato and Descartes. As her ex-husband (Peter Husmann) tells her when she confesses her affair to him, "head-to-heart" conflicts are always the most difficult.

This is certainly an interesting look at the politics of modern romance in places of higher learning, where codes of conduct have recently been established to keep teachers from getting chummy with their students. As timely as it is, however, Dale Griffiths Stamos' play bogs down early under the weight of a string of philosophical arguments that get too long, too tedious, and too self-conscious. The concentration should be where these characters travel on their human journey, not about everything the playwright knows about the subject of rational thought. At times Stamos' dialogue becomes white noise, as though the actors sometimes don't quite get it themselves—although saying so makes us sound like one of those people Richard disdains who "can't rub two thoughts together to make a thought."

Still, one would be hard-pressed to find a cast able to uncover more veracity in this script. Lawrence is amazingly compelling despite one late, highly unbelievable turn in her character's resolve, and Gonzalez takes on the potentially undemanding role of a standard hunk and fills him with his own more cerebral qualities. Polis is a standout as the professor thrilled to bursting at his colleague's indiscretions, as are Husmann as Elizabeth's ex and Carlease Burke as another teacher who thinks the good doctor should go for it. Alison Vail Fuller directs with a steady hand but is overpowered by the piece's frequent filmic blackouts, breaking the mood with shuffling chairs and slamming doors not muffled enough by the repeated plaintive obo music. There's much to offer here, but it all drowns in excess—verbal and corporeal.

Presented by Venice Sky Productions at Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. Fri.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Jan. 20-Feb. 26. (310) 392-7327.

Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder

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