‘2 Pianos 4 Hands’ sings

Players’ show a 2010 revival

What could be funnier than two grown men playing fussy little boys? The audience for “2 Pianos 4 Hands” dress rehearsal Tuesday night at the Peterborough Players learned it’s two grown men playing fussy little boys learning to play piano.

Returning to the Players stage to reprise their 2010 roles, actors Tom Frey and Jeffrey Rockwell play dueling would-be piano prodigies, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, learning to cope with the pressures and challenges that go along with the rise to musical greatness.

Frey and Rockwell also take on the roles of nagging parents, idiosyncratic piano instructors and recital adjudicators, as well as harsh conservatory admissions examiners.

Everyone seems to agree that the two boys have talent, but just how far it will take them is the question only time can answer, as Ted and Richard struggle with ambivalent feelings about what it takes to become professional classical pianists.

The third main character in “2 pianos 4 hands” is the music itself, mostly classical, but also some rock and roll. And Frey and Rockwell play piano well. They also do some singing and a little dancing, but they mostly clown around on stage. Like two kids unable to sit still, they use every opportunity to ham it up. It’s as if the boys are “Three Stooges” characters trapped in the bodies of children, but not just any children — they’re children with an ear for classical music.

They’re not so unlike their real-life counterparts of the same names, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, both of whom studied classical music as children and went on to have careers in theater. The two Canadians collaborated to create “2 Pianos 4 Hands” after comparing notes about their experiences of childhood under the strain of such serious musical endeavors. Perhaps their particular brand of physical, whiny humor emerged from their need as children to just be kids.

The music at the start of the second act signals a change in mood as the seriousness of what Tom and Richard will do with their lives as adults comes into sharper focus. Will they go to university or attend musical conservatory? How will they support themselves in the music world? Are they good enough to go all they way with careers as classical pianists?

These are the familiar — albeit with slight variations — questions every person has to ask as they near maturity.

We start out in life with a world of possibilities, dreams and visions of greatness. Then, it’s settling down to the actual work and practice it takes to bring those ambitions to life. “How far am I willing to go? Which path is the path for me?” are the questions the play explores. And the mirth of the first part of the play is transformed as we see Ted and Richard groping in the dark, so to speak, toward their destinies.

There are no easy answers, no quick solutions to the puzzle of who we are and what we will become. “2 Pianos 4 Hands” doesn’t offer any either. In the end, each of us is left with the consequences, both good and bad, of our choices.

What the play does offer is a small hint of the possibilities for metamorphosis, as we come to realize that the true obstacles in life are from within. It reminds us that every success or failure isn’t an end in itself.

In the final act each of us is left with the self and the things it holds dear, just as Ted and Richard are left with their music.

And they keep playing on even after the roller coaster ride of life.

Priscilla Morrill can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 225, or pmorrill@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @PMorrill.

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