Monday, October 27, 2003

2 piano, 4 hands (Cleveland Play House)

Cleveland Play House hits right keyes in ‘2 PIANOS, 4 HANDS’

Alex Berko is 7 years old. He has had three piano recitals and has been asked to participate in a piano competitions. He has a bright future, right? Well, after watching Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt’s ‘2 PIANOS 4 HANDS,’ Alex, and anyone else who has aspirations of being a top flight pianist, might have different thoughts. And anyone who has ever taken piano lessons, or knows anyone who has, will be carried back to those glorious (?) days.

Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt are the subjects of their own play. They, in their own words, are “the best pianists in the neighborhood.” Neither of them started out that way. Much like Alex, as children they became fascinated with the piano, an instrument for which they apparently had great talent. As we follow their lives and careers in music we experience their musical journey from adolescence to adulthood. A journey that is filled with laughter, euphoria, pain and tears.

The CPH cast is composed of Mark Anders portraying Ted, and Carl Danielsen as Richard. The two are both excellent pianists and actors. Without such a talented cast, the play wouldn’t work. We need to see the two actually playing, mature through the years. Taped music just wouldn’t have done it. The playing of less accomplished performers also wouldn’t have worked. This is not a play that will be done by amateur groups. The whole task would be too daunting.

The audience is confronted by two grand pianos, nicely nestled in a room with plush royal blue walls and busts of Bach and Beethoven. Through flashbacks, we watch as the two are confronted by parents, teachers, professors and numerous others who invaded their real and musical lives. The two even musically and psychologically directly wrestle with each other at piano competitions and during their training.

The production is wonderful. It hits all the right keys. It is filled with great music, covering everything from Bach to Billy Joel, from Beethoven to jazz. The script, which centers around the music, allows us to experience the fun and pain of trying to achieve in the world of music.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you love classical music, if you appreciate fine performances, and are willing to expand your definition of what theatre should be, you’ll love ‘2 PIANOS, 4 HANDS.”