Sunday, June 21, 2009

review - 2 Pianos 4 Hands @ The Colony

2 Pianos 4 Hands
by Ted Dykstra & Richard Greenblatt
directed by Tom Frey
Colony Theatre
through July 26
Beware the title! 2 Pianos 4 Hands is not a lesson in how to play the piano or is it a concert/revue of dueling pianos, although this is certainly included and a welcomed part of the diverse evening. Based on the lives of piano virtuosos Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt,
the play offers actors/musicians Jeffrey Rockwell and Roy Abramsohn the golden opportunity to strut their stuff...and quite brilliantly.
Playing the men as boys, teenagers and grown up, as well as their parents, a bevy of teachers - with an assortment of international accents - and students, both male ansd female, Rockwell and Abramsohn show an incredible range of artistry. And their timing at the keyboards is impeccable.
With an emphasis on the classics, including pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin there are also lighter moments with a medley of pop tunes, like those of Scott Joplin, the Beatles, Elton John, the theme from Chariots of Fire and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire".
The main issue at stake is committing one's life to the instrument - the pain of music lessons, which deprives a child of his... well, ordinary childhood playtime - and just how full a commitment one is willing to make during one's entire lifespan... to become a virtuoso player. Without the discipline, desire and commitment to endless hours of practice to perfect a talent, that talent is wasted. And then there are the tortured feelings of the students who feel guilty when they do not practice and inadequate when they do. It's never good enough! There are unending competitions in the early years, festivals, conservatory auditions, and even the occasional piano bar along the way - to make money. Always an ugly word for a serious musician! Remember Shirley MacLaine's dynamic Madame Sousatska, the piano teacher who knew how to dampen any spirit and drive one to drink? Well, these two fellas have more than one such maestro. It's tough to stick it out, but somehow they do. At play's end, the two recant not making it to the very top of their profession, but satisfy themselves with being the best, if not in the country or in the city, then at least in the neighborhood.
The beauty of this piece is that it translates well to just about every art form - acting, singing, dance, or painting, sculpture, etc. Artists give up so much and some never reap the rewards that they deserve. It's a cruel world, where one must oft times compromise and rejoice in that he is making a living, not in some humdrum, boring job, but doing what he honestly loves to do.
On the minus side, this piece is too long, repetitious and with a tendency toward self-indulgence. Artists are self-absorbed, that's a natural. OK. As to the repetition... a teacher myself, I am reminded of how important to learning it can be, but let's not hit them over the head with it!
That aside, under Tom Frey's never tedious pacing as director, both performers are consistently riveting to watch and listen to, and that alone is worth the price of admission!
4 out of 5 stars


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