BWW Review: 2 PIANOS, 4 HANDS at Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park
If you have ever taken a piano lesson or tried to learn any kind of instrument, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" will bring back all the nostalgia of those hours spent begrudgingly practicing and praying that you'll magically know how to play those certain cords if you stare at the instrument long enough. Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt's autobiographical play follows their journey with classical piano from their very first piano lessons to their duet concert performance, and everything in between.
Jefferson McDonald and Matthew McGloin star as Ted and Richard, respectively. The two start the show with brilliant nonverbal, mime-esque acting as they go round and round deciding whose piano is whose, then once they are settled they dive right into a Bach piece, Concerto in D Minor. Not knowing anything about the show prior to seeing it, I wondered if the entire show would continue in this manner; almost as if it were a silent movie. For the first time in my theatre-going life, the thought of a silent play... except for the piano, of course, didn't scare me in the least. That is largely due to the insane comedic timing of both McDonald and McGloin.
My worries were quickly cleared when the concerto was over and we suddenly flashed back to when the boys were growing up. In the play, both McDonald and McGloin are constantly alternating between their younger characters of Ted and Richard, as well as the various influences in their life: piano teachers, parents, professors, etc. Each shift is portrayed with such ease. I never found myself confused at where we were at in the story, as both actors flowed so effortlessly into and out of each character that they played. Both actors had to shift in and out of a variety of accents as well, and each accent seemed to roll off the tongue easier than the last.
The simplicity of the flashbacks and role-shifts were also aided by the lighting design. When the story revolved around Richard, the spotlight would be centered on his piano and McDonald would join him in the light, and vice versa. The shifts were made perfectly, and you never felt like you were startled with the difference in lives. The plot, the acting, and the lighting all made each shift remarkably smooth.
Now, the obvious highlight of the night was getting to spend two hours watching two unbelievably talented musicians play some intensely complicated works on the piano. Both McDonald and McGloin's hands seemed to be on fire with the amount and speed that they were able to play. They played everything from Bach and Mozart to Billy Joel, and each was more enticing the piece before. If you are anything like me, listening to classical piano for two hours is not usually the most enticing, but watching two people who are so strong in their craft is enchanting, no matter what they are playing on the piano.
If you are looking for a night of laughter and lush piano music, look no further than Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park as "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" plays through Jan. 5, 2020. For tickets and more information, click or tap here.