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THEATER REVIEW: “2 Pianos 4 Hands” tickles the ivory, amuses audiences

My piano teacher wasn’t much interested when, at the age of 11, I told him I couldn’t play that piece. He ordered me to play it anyway, and greeted my lack of success with a suggestion to practice.

Anyone who’s ever practiced those boring scales and arpeggios while longing to be elsewhere – anywhere else – will identify with the two boys in “2 Pianos 4 Hands,” playing through Feb. 13 at North Coast Repertory Theatre.

Canadians Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt were acting together when they discovered similar backgrounds – both had studied classical piano, planned on concert careers and abandoned the dream at the age of 17. They recognized the idea for a play, and “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is the happy result.

Working on a bare stage except for facing grand pianos, Richard (Carl Danielsen) and Ted (Mark Anders) recreate those early piano lessons and the repeated reminders about the curve of the wrist and the placement of hands.

They progress to those two-hand competitions for kids, music camp and the argument with dad about conservatory vs. university education.

In the process, they show us various piano teachers and their approaches, from the weary nun whose patience is strained to the breaking point to Mr. Scarlatti, who insists arpeggios be played with one hand, to Mr. Franc, a Frenchman who counsels treating the piano as a woman to whom one should make love.

Throughout, they joke, play and communicate both the joy and frustration of music. But classical music is a tough business, and both finally realize that though they are very good, neither is good enough to fulfill that concert pianist dream, and settle for being “two of the best piano players in the neighborhood.”

Along the way, we’re treated to some fine acting and music from “Heart and Soul” to a Beethoven sonatina, from Grieg to Jerry Lee Lewis and the piece which bookends the show, the first movement of Bach’s Concerto in D minor.

“2 Pianos 4 Hands” will resonate more strongly with those who have studied an instrument, but is amusing enough to be enjoyed by all.

The details

“2 Pianos 4 Hands” plays through Feb. 13 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach.

Wednesday and Sunday at 7 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

For tickets, call (858) 481-1055 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.