Celebrates the Artist, in all of Us

By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Kevin Berne

l-r CHRISTOPHER TOCCO playing the role of   Richard Greenblatt  and DARREN  DUNSTAN Playing the role of  Ted Dykstra.
 l-r CHRISTOPHER TOCCO playing the role of   Richard Greenblatt  and DARREN  DUNSTAN Playing the role of  Ted Dykstra.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Written by Concert Pianists/playwrights TED DYKSTRA and RICHARD GREENBLATT, “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is a witty comedy which captivates the audience with its variety of music, (some popular some classical: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin) masterly played on one or two pianos, and its situation humor  that does not use verbal put downs based on the skin color, race, or  age or another person as the butt of its jokes, but is created by the  “predicaments” experienced by the two main characters: Richard and Ted, two pianists.  

 To create  a comedy with music as its subject, requires imagination. and “2 PIANOS 4 HANDS” shows plenty of it. To make the subject entertaining, the play uses music. The Pianos, play a role in this play. It is constructed into a series of short skits, in which DARREN DUNSTAND in the main role of Ted and CHRISTOPHER TOCCO  in the main role of Richard, represent the secondary  roles of different male and female other characters: music teachers, their two fathers, their years as children learning music, learning the notes’values, the different scales, the musical tempos, and even how to sit at the piano correctly and evem how to give the music they were playing, the “proper” interpretation



The play starts showing the audience that concert pianists, like most artists, have their particular peculiarities. On the open stage, sitting on the benches of their grand pianos, both pianists, are about to start playing. Ted (DUNSTAN) who is Sitting on stage left, Calls Richard’s (TOCCO’s) who is sitting at the stage right piano, attention as he gets up his bench and walks to talk with him. After murmuring something in his ear, that we do not hear, we see TOCCO moving to stage left, as DUNSTAN sits on his bench on the piano located on stage right. He is about to start playing but for a reason we don’t know, Ted does not like this piano, so he returns to his original piano carrying the right's piano’s bench. After switching the benches, he starts fidgeting with the new bench's height, with how close to place to the piano, and many other "details." DUNSTAN is very serious, about what he is trying to do, but what he does is so funy, that by now, the audience is roaring with laughter. We should add that after he made the audience laugh, both pianist play together a masterful interpretation of Johan Sebastian Bach Concerto in D minor, 1st movement

Both actors, are wonderful pianists. DUNSTAN credits include Arkansas Reperatory Theatre, and Radio City Music Hall in New York. He has also has performed as a baritone soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. TOCCCO has previously played the role in Pittsburgh and the Rubicon Theaatre Company. He is a regional actor with numerous off-Broadway credits and a MFA from the American Conservatory theater.

As for "2 Pianos 4 Hands," we can easily guess that the story in is a semi-biographical story of the two Canadian Pianists who wrote it ( DYKSTRA and GREENBLATT) because everything in the comedy rings “true.” It is the story that any person who, as a child, has been “forced” by an ambitious mother of father, to learn to play piano can emphatize with and laugh about it.

 In this comedy, however, the audience laughs but also has the opportunity to listen piano versions of both popular and classical music masterly interpreted at the  pianos  by TOCCO and DUNSTAN both making their Theatre Works debut.

The plot is told in short skits, in which one actor plays a child and the other represent either a teacher or a father. Yet, the play has beginning, middle and end. And thr story grows, with the pianists because while at the beginning we are shown their “suffering” (as children) learning to finger the scales, memorizing the different scales, asked to identify the intervals and many other music learning requirements. We also learn to see how little by little that training forms the artist. builds his persistence, and "seduces" him each day he conquers a difficulty, until the day he learns to love it and music becomes part of his life.

L-R  TOCCO as Richarch and DUNSTAN as a teacher
              L-R  TOCCO as Richarch and DUNSTAN as a teacher

It all comes as a game, with the music teacher, that is so old that falls sleep during a lesson laying on the floor, but it gets very serious and painful when it shows the other teachers, the ones in the Conservatories who tells the talented students filled with dreams, that they lack talent (and maybe because of his own frustration) tries to discourage him for pursuing his dream to one day become a classical concert pianists. Every pianist during the years that he/she was studying music, encountered one of those in his or her life.

In the case of DYKSTRA and GREENBLATT, after meeting in Toronto at a piano concert, the pianists turned playwrights may have decided to turn that "pain" during their learning to play piano, into laughter, and share it with the audience in their comedy "2 Pianos 4 Hands," a wonderful play with music that they originally performed in Canada in l995.

 Directed by TOM FREY, (who has been directing and performing the role of Ted for 15 years with TOCCO)  “2 Pianos and 4 Hands” is now being presented By THEATRE WORKS  at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., in Mountain View, California until February 15. Tickets are available at theatreworks.org or by calling 650 463-1960