Regional Reviews: San Diego
2 Pianos 4 Hands
Also see David's review of A Christmas Carol
The present production is helmed by Tom Frey, artistic director of the Peterborough Players, in New Hampshire. Mr. Frey's bio calls him the "US resident director of 2 Pianos 4 Hands." His actors, Jefferson McDonald as Ted and Matthew McGloin as Richard, are working together at North Coast Repertory Theatre for the fourth time.
And this is not the first time NCRT has presented 2 Pianos 4 Hands. Proven play, proven production. What's not to like?
I'm not going to argue. It's a lovely, audience-pleasing show, featuring more than a bit of nostalgia for the holiday season (closing date is January 1, 2023). More than once I was transported back to the piano lessons of my youth and reminded that I was glad the lessons taught me to read music and instilled in me a love of music (albeit not the piano) that I still practice on a regular basis (though any dreams I might have savored of a professional career faded long ago).
Clearly, the bug bit Richard and Ted, who are ably and charmingly embodied by Mr. McGloin and Mr. McDonald. They are not only fine pianists (not at the level of Gould or Horowitz, as the script has them admit, though marvelous all the same). They are also excellent comic actors. I'd say that they come more from the tradition of Victor Borge than of Liberace, but it's tough to find actors who can sustain a two-hour, one-intermission performance and play the range of music required.
That range focuses on classical repertoire from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin, to Liszt, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg. Along the way, it is compared to the pop and rock repertoire, from Billy Joel and Elton John to Hoagy Carmichael and Rogers and Hart.
The stories told in between numbers are those of Mr. Dykstra and Mr. Greenblatt, but they're universal enough: problems with practicing; making sure that one has the proper teachers and knows when to move on; how commitment to one's craft affects the rest of one's life; the pressure of being accepted into the kind of conservatory that will insure a successful career; and the realization and acceptance of one's limitations. Younger people seeing 2 Pianos 4 Hands may recognize at least some of those pressures; older audience members may surely be moved to reflect on choices taken and not taken, as well as their consequences.
I'm making all this sound melancholy, which it is most assuredly not, overall. But a holiday show, which in a very real way this is, needs at least a bit of melancholy to be credible, if not inspirational.
And with lots of laughs along the way.
NCRT needed to provide a production, which it did quite professionally, with Marty Burnett designing the set, Matt Novotny the lighting, and Harley Symington the sound. Chandra R.M. Anthenill made her company debut as production stage manager.
No matter how far you need to travel to Solana Beach to see 2 Pianos 4 Hands, it will be worth the effort.
2 Pianos 4 Hands runs through January 1, 2023, at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach CA. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is an matinee on Wednesday, December 21 and Friday, December 23. There are no performances December 24, 2022 or December 25, 2022. Tickets are $59. The theater is located at the rear of a shopping center and there is ample free parking. For tickets and information, please visit northcoastrep.org.