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Cocktail hour and a half: (l-r) Anders and Danielsen in Two Pianos, Four Hands.

Songs in the Key of Light
By James Yeara

Two Pianos, Four Hands
By Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, directed by Bruce K. Sevy

Capital Repertory Theatre, through Nov. 10

Two Pianos, Four Hands continues Capital Repertory Theatre’s tendency for pleasing, light, popular, well-tested entertainment. This is a simple, by-the-numbers, no-stress, no-muss, no-fuss piano recital with occasional anecdotes and skits. The piano playing holds the interest.

By the numbers: Two Pianos, Four Hands has two playwrights, one director, two actors, 33 scenes, 98 minutes, two laughs per minute (that’s 196 laughs), and no intermission. The set has one black faux-marble floor, two light wood-paneled doorways up left and up right, and three large, light wood-paneled picture frames up center. There are two black concert pianos facing each other center stage, with two cushioned piano benches extreme stage right and stage left. The two actors wear two black tuxes with tails, white vests and ties, and black patent leather wingtips. The actors depict the playwrights from ages 5 to 17 through the first 31 scenes, then at age 38 for the last two. The two actors play on the pianos 21 musical numbers (including two medleys of “classical hits” and “pop tunes”) beginning and ending with Bach’s D Minor Piano Concerto; sandwiched between are piano classics like “Heart and Soul” and “Piano Man.”

There were too many notes to count, but they all sounded pretty good.

Two Pianos, Four Hands is a happy show about two Canadian blokes who toil at the piano as youngsters, achieve some success as teens in piano competition, and fail to become the next Horowitzes (in the penultimate scene listening to a live recording of Horowitz, they sink into a boozy depression with what looked like two Labatts). They triumph by the play’s end, however, seemingly satisfied with the epithet, “We’re two of the finest piano players in the neighborhood.” The acceptance of limits and the joy of pleasant work are what passes for theme.

With acceptance of the play’s limits, the pleasure of watching actors Mark Anders (Ted Dykstra) and Carl J. Danielsen (Richard Greenblatt) work equals carefree entertainment. Two Pianos, Four Hands features quick, painless, amusing vignettes and sketches, and lots of pleasant piano playing. This is the sort of combination of music and short-form acting exercise that won’t stretch anyone, or offend anyone, or cause anyone to think or feel deeply, but you will laugh often and enjoy the piano playing.

With multiple productions of Two Pianos, Four Hands across the country under the direction of Bruce K. Sevy, this is like the musical equivalent of Starbucks—balanced on the dramaturgy of Victor Borge or Liberace. All that’s really needed to complete the oeuvre is table service for cocktails and a befeathered chorus girl in shiny costume turning pages for the piano players. You wouldn’t want your Seagram’s neat, but a whiskey sour would complement the sweetness of Two Pianos, Four Hands.

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