Peter Vitale and Michael Pearce Donley.
Photo courtesy Park Square Theatre
I was an indifferent piano student for about a decade when I was a youngster, from elementary school through the first part of high school. I went to lessons, practiced, um, occasionally, and took part in nerve-wracking recitals. I never caught the passion it takes to truly succeed at music, and didn't really miss it once I packed it in.
The characters in 2 Pianos 4 Hands aren't like that. They had a youthful passion and affinity for the instrument that drove them forward into far higher reaches than I could have imagined. Creators Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra drew on their years of lessons, hours of practice, and numerous competitions for a play about youthful desire and the toll that takes when desire doesn't meet reality.
The play (with lots of music) also proves to be a showcase for actors Peter Vitale and Michael Pearce-Donley, who not only take on a myriad of characters, but also need to tackle plenty of music on the main feature of the set: a pair of grand pianos.
Vitale and Pearce-Donley play characters much like the playwrights, with their main roles even taking on the names of the authors. The main action of the play takes place over a decade, as they go from elementary-school youth making their first inroads into playing to teenagers whose ambitions have outstripped their drive and talent.
Along the way, the actors also get to play a variety of eccentric piano teachers who give sometimes-contradictory advice on how to play. They are also tormented by parents who may drive them to play, play, play, but also eventually are concerned by just how much time they are spending at the keyboard.
All of this comes to a head when Richard and Ted look to jump up to the next stage. In a pair of humiliating scenes, they learn that their talent is little more than average in the greater world and that their futures likely lie outside the concert stage (though, for both of the real characters, it ended up being onstage).
These are roles that can be difficult to cast, as it takes performers who can both act and play at high levels. The pair here does well on both sides of the equation, showcasing the chops needed to bring the show to full life. They've had practice on it, as this is the second time in three holiday seasons that Park Square has presented the work. However, it's a worthy revival, as it's a work that reveals much the second time around.
IF YOU GO:
2 Pianos 4 Hands
Through December 30
Park Square Theatre
20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul
For information and tickets, call 651.291.7005 or visit online.