Created, directed, and performed by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. Produced by Marquis Entertainment and Talking Fingers, presented by the Arts Club. At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Wednesday, March 20. Continues until April 14
In 2 Pianos 4 Hands, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt celebrate their ordinariness, which is so much better than mine—and quite likely yours—that the evening is extraordinarily entertaining.
Dykstra and Greenblatt, who wrote and directed the show and first performed it in 1996, both grew up wanting to become concert pianists. The evening is a comic celebration of that particular kind of striving and of the eccentric characters who populate the world that surrounds it.
In this two-man entertainment, Dykstra and Greenblatt play fictionalized versions of themselves, but they also become the piano-teaching nun with the migraine and the near-catatonic host of the Kiwanis Music Festival, who announces with undisguised dread that 67 pairs of children will now play exactly the same duet and the experience will take approximately four hours.
Accurate observation and giddy absurdity make it all work, but you needn’t have ever played an instrument to understand 2 Pianos 4 Hands; it will speak to anyone who remembers their childhood dreams of success—and the leavening experience of watching those dreams fade in adulthood. You’ve never heard Dykstra and Greenblatt play on the concert stage, have you? No. So it’s no spoiler to reveal that they didn’t make it as concert performers. In a lovely moment in which the two are drunken teenagers listening to a recording of Vladimir Horowitz interpreting Liszt at Carnegie Hall, Dykstra asks, “If you’re not going to play like that, what’s the point?”
And the show answers, simply and subtly, that the point is pleasure. There’s comic pleasure in this performance, of course. The mugging and physical business get overly broad at times, but both actors are precise; Dykstra has a particularly amiable and inventive touch. Beyond that, Dykstra and Greenblatt are smart enough to take serious pleasure in the music. Yes, they do fantastically show-offy tricks, seamlessly trading a melody back and forth, for instance. But they also let you listen.
There’s a lovely, pure patch of Chopin at the beginning of Act 2. The show ends with the first movement from Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, arranged for two pianos. And, on opening night, they played Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” as an encore. These pieces are a joy to listen to—and, clearly, to play. “This is enough,” 2 Pianos 4 Hands says, without belaboring the point. “This is more than enough.”