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2 Pianos, 4 Hands - 2 actors and many, many characters

By Jessica Suarez

Monday September 17, 2001

"2 Pianos, 4 Hands" is a comedy with music, but it's not a musical. This two-man play by the Arizona Theatre Company is about two kids who dream about becoming classical pianists. The play has the players put in double performances, not only as actors, but as musicians, and they do both equally well.

The story, written by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, will be familiar to anyone who was forced to play an instrument as a child. The weird teachers, the nerdy, child prodigies and parents who ground you for never practicing are all there. The subject is obviously a familiar one to Dykstra and Greenblatt, who starred in the original production of the play, and whose characters share their names.

The difference between most children who play instruments and these characters, however, is that the characters honestly love playing the piano, and they dream of becoming classical pianists when they grow up. But classical piano requires perfection - a perfection that remains just beyond their grasp. They grow up so focused on the piano that they can't think of doing anything else. But this level of perfection is simply out of their reach - something that everyone faces, in performing arts, sports or academics.

The play's action centers around the two pianos and the two performers, who caricature their teachers, parents and piano rivals with wonderful accuracy and humor. Woven in between are skillful performances of well-known songs for the piano - everything from Mozart and Chopin to "Heart and Soul" and "Piano Man."

Mark Anders and Carl J. Danielsen, who play Ted and Richard, respectively, are dead-on as they play the children, parents, teachers and finally, adults. As musicians, they perform just as well. As they go through their pieces, one wonders how their characters could not become classical musicians.

The play is about precisely that: What does a person do when they realize they just aren't going to make it? Ted realizes this during a painful audition for a conservatory; Richard learns this when he tries to get into a jazz school as a possible fallback. This provides the play's most touching scene, a melancholy moment in this humorous play.

Directed by Bruce K. Sevy, the bare set and focused lighting work well with the show's sophisticated musical and acting performances. The program book contains a list of the pieces performed during "2 Pianos, 4 Hands," which includes a piece by Greenblatt. While Dykstra and Greenblatt never became classical pianists, "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" shows that they were able to exorcise their past with humor and wisdom.

Saturday's performance was scheduled to be a benefit gala, the proceeds of which were to supplement the theatre itself. Instead, the group sponsored a "pay what you can" performance, the proceeds of which went to the September 11th fund, sponsored by United Way.

"2 Pianos, 4 Hands" runs through Sept. 29 at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott. For more information, call the Arizona Theatre Company at 622-2823.


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