Peter Vitale and Michael Donley ready to showcase talents in '2 Pianos 4 Hands'

For Peter Vitale and Michael Donley, this week has been crunch time. The two performers have been sharpening their acting and piano playing for 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which opens Friday at the Park Square Theatre. The play by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt traces the piano-playing lives of two talented musicians, from their earliest days on the bench to the ultimate decisions they make about their careers.

The roles require each actor to take on a bevy of different characters--some at multiple times during their lives--all the while continuing to play the various pieces of music required by the script.

"Some of it isn't very challenging, but other pieces are expert," Vitale says. "When those two things collide (acting and playing) it becomes really fun. We have to move and play and talk. You have to be able to react to what the other is doing without losing the playing."

The casting calls for two performers with a high level of piano skill. Vitale started later than most young pianists--around sixth grade--but continued on with his studying up to college.  "I entered college thinking I would be a piano major, but I shifted to voice," he says. "I wasn't the kid who could sit in the practice room five hours a day."

That theme also comes up in the script, and Vitale sees that as something that is more universal than musicians or performers. "A lot of us have ended up taking detours on the way to what we do in life," he says.

Vitale and Donley have worked together in the past, but not in front of the footlights. "We've worked together in orchestra pits and at Ten Thousand Things. He's a great, positive guy and an overly talented performer. That's important for the show--to be able to feel comfortable around each other," Vitale says.

That is especially important when they need to take risks to make the laughs pay off. One moment has the two of them, as youthful versions of their characters, forced to share a piano to play a Mozart duet. "We are fighting the entire time, to the point that we are beating each other up, and we can't miss a note," Vitale says.

2 Pianos 4 Hands runs through January 2.

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