Centaur’s new production of 2 Pianos, 4 Hands is a riotous, knee-slapping, heart-breaking and fabulous romp with two terrific actors playing the original Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt duo. You know that with two grand pianos on stage, this is going to be a class act. It never disappoints, and often leaves the audience laughing so hard they have to fight for breath.
Based on the real life experiences of the authors as they struggled and practised their childhood and adolescence away staring at the ivories, there are any number of terrific scenes with strange neurotic teachers and angry parents. There is also the leitmotif of the competitiveness of the piano players as boys, teens, and finally as young men.
The final revelation about their playing, and what turns this ending into a triumph as well, is that they can be very good pianists and yet not make it to concert pianist status. They also stun us by being wonderful playwrights, and in Greenblatt’s case, a very gifted director as well.
The two playwrights wrote this show and toured it themselves for seventeen years starting in 1995. The play has become one of the most successful Canadian theatre touring shows in history.
Bryce Kulak and Reza Jacobs play Richard and Ted, and the sheer amount of work they do on stage is staggering. Not only do they make jokes with the playing of the pianos, but offer the audience some really good performances as well. I can imagine that if you are not in fact a virtuoso giving concerts all year round, the sheer complexity of this playing and the exigency of the timing must have taken months to prepare.
In this fantastic piece of theatre, we are lucky to be offered the work of Bryce Kulak, who has some hilarious moments as various persona, moving flawlessly from role to role. Reza Jacobs is most convincing first as the whiny young child, and later the deeply disillusioned young man. When he lies down on the floor to give one of the last piano lessons, he is simply hilarious.
If you have not seen this play, you are missing a terrific experience, and if you have seen the original, this is a great chance to laugh at a new generation of hands and pianos in a two hander.
2 Pianos, 4 Hands is presented at Centaur Theatre (453 St. Francois-Xiavier) until May 25. For tickets or info call (514) 288-3161 or visit their website.