Reviewed by Judy Richter
Becoming a professional classical musician requires both talent and dedication, starting from a very young age. Even then, talent and dedication might not be enough for someone to make the grade as a first-rate musician. That's what playwrights Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt learned when they were about 17 years old, and that's the story they tell in their autobiographical "2 Pianos, 4 Hands."
The two originally starred in the two-man play, starting with its premiere in Toronto in 1996, but now the San Jose Repertory Theatre production features Mark Anders as Ted and Carl J. Danielsen as Richard. The two men also play teachers, parents and others who influenced Richard and Ted starting from about age 7 or 8 when they were learning music theory and basic techniques.
Running for slightly more than an hour and a half, "2 Pianos" is not only a fascinating coming of age story but also a concert with music by such greats as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt and others. Hence it requires actors with the range to play all the characters plus the ability to play the music on the two concert grands that grace the classical set by the late Scott Weldin (with lighting by Don Darnutzer and sound by Brian Jerome Peterson). Anders and Danielsen, directed by Bruce K. Sevy, ably fill the bill and then some. Wearing formal concert attire (costumes by Kish Finnegan), they make quick transitions between characters, both male and female, as the two boys grow from youngsters to teenagers and then adults. Both deliver tour de force performances and seem to have fun at the same time.
Their closing duet, the first movement of Bach's D Minor Concerto, provides just the right finishing touch to this most enjoyable production.