What do you do when your first dream doesn’t work out? That’s the widespread experience at the core of 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which opened this week and runs through November 16 at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura. Written nearly 20 years ago by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, the show requires two actors who combine skills rarely found together: They must be strong comedians, and they must play classical piano at a professional level. Drawing on their common experiences in the high-pressure, high-stakes world of concerto competitions and recital debuts, Dykstra and Greenblatt created a two-act show in which the performers, seated at dueling grand pianos, play both themselves and a colorful cast of secondary characters, including parents, friends, and, of course, scary piano teachers. Spanning years of devotion to the instrument that stretch from pre-adolescence to early middle age, the cumulative effect of these musical vignettes is twofold. The audience gets to laugh along with the performers at the pains and paradoxes of the music world’s never-ending career ladder, and at the same time they discover a web of similar expectations that extend far beyond the concert hall and the practice room.
Thomas Frey, who directs and performs in this production along with Christopher Tocco, has been with 2 Pianos 4 Hands for years and thus has more than his share of audience memories.
“I’ve had people come up to me after the show and say, ‘So it’s really about tennis’ or ‘That’s what I went through with baseball.’” It appears that the play strikes a chord (sorry!) with all those who pursued childhood dreams until they evaporated in the harsh light of adult realities. “Musicians start working toward long-term goals so early that it’s like a different person made that choice,” said Frey. “What happens when you are 35 and living with decisions that you made at 17?” Not to worry though — the emphasis in the show falls on the comic side of this fascinating subculture. And yes, the music will be as fresh and exciting as the perspective provided by hearing from 2 Pianos 4 Hands.