Park Square returns to '2 Pianos 4 Hands'

Peter Vitale and Michael Pearce Donley.
Peter Vitale and Michael Pearce Donley.
Photo courtesy Park Square Theatre
Peter Vitale and Michael Pearce Donley are getting the chance to revisit a favorite from their recent past, and they are ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

"Largely, I was able to learn the music and all the pieces involved," Vitale says about the revival of 2 Pianos 4 Hands, now in previews at Park Square Theatre and opening Friday. "I certainly learned it the first time around, but going from zero to performance quality in that amount of time is different than picking it up now. My brain is now free to pay attention to the rest of the play, as I have more of the music in my hands."

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In the play, Vitale and Donley play a pair of pianists on their journey through training, starting as young players. Along the way they take on various roles, including plenty of piano teachers, and perform a number of pieces. It's a play that requires a specific set of talents, with performers who are comfortable with acting and playing at the keyboard.

The duo played the characters in 2010, and their previous director, Tom Frey, has also performed both roles in the show. The familiarity gives the performers a different starting place this time.

"We have the time and the sort of breathing place to find [the characters] as real people," Vitale says. "The play is structured in a very segmented way, with many short to moderately short scenes and exchanges. It invites that kind of broad, superficial characters. You don't want it to be a cartoon, but you only have fine lines. That extra space of confidence and the time to explore a little more of their reality helps to dial it down. It is still kind of broad, and demands big gestures, but they do need to have some kind of real anchor or it just become skits. None of us want that."

Vitale studied piano as a youth and even started college as a piano major before shifting his focus to vocal music. After that, he began to concentrate on acting. Those various skills have opened a number of performing doors in the area, including his post as music and sound director for Ten Thousand Things Theater. 

"I wasn't a prodigy, but I was good for my age. You hit a certain age when you kind of hit a lull. That part was during my senior year of high school, when you are kind of questioning everything," Vitale says. 

In 2010, circumstances of scheduling and weather -- remember, we had a winter that year -- meant that the two could never get a good head of performing steam going. This year, Christmas and New Year's fall on scheduled days off, while Vitale is confident that the weather will cooperate and not dump a blizzard on opening night. 

"This year, I'm really looking forward to sinking into it completely," Vitale says. "It was a great experience the first time through. We did a great job, and the audiences seemed to enjoy it. Now we are ready to continue that work. You could do the piece four or five times and still find more."


2 Pianos 4 Hands
In previews through Thursday, opens Friday through Dec. 30
Park Square Theatre, 20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul
$38-$58 ($25 previews)
For information and tickets, call 651.291.7005 or visit online.

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