AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Ted Dykstra & Richard Greenblatt
Directed by Tom Frey
Presented by TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA / (650) 463-1960

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Becoming a truly great classical musician requires extraordinary talent and dedication. Without both of the latter, one's dream of greatness won't come true.

That's the hard lesson learned by young Ted (Darren Dunstan) and Richard (Christopher Tocco) in "2 Pianos 4 Hands," the autobiographical play with music by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, presented by TheatreWorks.

Directed by Tom Frey, the two-act work follows the boys' journey from their first piano lessons through harsh assessments when they're about to embark upon higher training.

The two actors play all of the other characters, both male and female. Most of those other characters are parents or teachers, some more competent than others. The two also play smatterings of music ranging from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and others to Rodgers & Hart, Billy Joel and John Lennon.

The first few minutes go slowly as the formally clad musicians (costumes by Noah Marin) get settled at the two Steinway grand pianos that dominate the stage, along with two large suspended picture frames, on the set by Steve Lucas, who also designed the lighting.

Things pick up after that as Ted and Richard are about 9 years old when they learn basics such as scales, chords and rhythms. This act is highlighted by their disastrous appearance in a duet contest. It caries them through age 12.

Act 2, which continues through age 17, features more advanced lessons and parental conflicts. Finally the bitter truth surfaces, and both young men have to settle for far less than they had hoped.

Besides being talented actors, the men in this show must be accomplished pianists. Dunstan and Tocco fill the bill on both.

Although they specifically deal with classical piano, the play's themes could apply to other types of music, especially classical, as well as other arts and even sports, where only the most gifted and talented have a chance of reaching the top.

By extension, the themes could work in other professions and aspects of life. Hence, the play makes for a satisfying evening of theater and music.

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